Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cara's Garden 2009

The week after we lost Cara, my mom approached us about planting a garden for Cara. The idea quickly took root and soon we had plants from family and friends filling our front porch. A family friend who is also a landscaper sent his crew in for a day to help these plants find a permanent home in our backyard. It became our outlet as we grieved and tended the earth last spring and summer.

Cara's Garden once again brought delight to our spring, summer and early fall. As the bloom on one plant closes, another plant starts to show its first buds. This year brought many additions to the garden as we celebrated Cara's first birthday, as well as another Mother's Day and Father's Day. As I look out on the garden, I'm constantly amazed that every plant has been a gift to Cara and us.

Bright pink peonies planted last fall.
My Mother's Day present from last year
Mother's Day present from this year, Purple Verbena, with Cara's memorial stone in the background
Tim's Father Day present. It's still blooming 4 months later.
Magnolia bloom opening in May
Bird bath with butterfly
View of the garden
My aunt gave us this jasmine at Cara's birthday. This is one plant that sadly is not in Cara's garden. We planted it in our front garden because of its need for shade.
Seashore mallow also not in Cara's garden, but simply beautiful. Although it looks like a hibiscus, it started blooming the end of August and is still in full bloom.
Cara would have been a year and a half last Friday. It's still hard to believe we have lived that long without her and still have a lifetime ahead of us. There are lighter days as new life springs up around (and most recently inside) us. As we anticipate the birth of our second little girl in the new two weeks, we continue carry Cara and her memory with us every day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crunch time

We're in the middle of that point in Cynthia's pregnancy right now where it feels like any day the baby could come and everything is about to change. We're at this point sooner than normal since the doctors are planning to take the baby early. But we're here nonetheless.

It's hard to be here again when it was not too long ago we were "here" waiting for Cara to be born. Doing the final touches in her nursery, packing our bags for the hospital, trying to get the car seat, strollers, pack n' play all ready.

We were doing this exact thing over the weekend for the baby. We sat up in the nursery folding clothes, setting up furniture, organizing, trying to make new memories for the baby in the midst of finding painful reminders of the preparations we had made for Cara - like dried up baby wipes and some of her things that will always be hers. We remembered the next morning that it would have been Cara's 18 month birthday. A year and a half. She should have been there. But we tried to make new memories for this baby - we felt like she deserved that and it's something Cara would want for her little sister too.

One of the things I'm most afraid is dealing with the misconception (which I think comes from a society that likes us to "move on" from grief in 2 or 3 days instead of walking with it for your life) that with the baby's birth all our pain will be magically washed away. This could be no further from the truth. And I'm scared that people will forget this. That people will forget that we'll always miss Cara when the pain of not having her physically here will never go entirely away. How could it? It will never go away and it shouldn't since she will always be a part of us. A part of her is here in spirit, but a part of her is physically gone which will always hurt.

I think this is where our rituals will help with this. I was imaging today that our Sunday visits to Cara's grave with our family will be a time where we remember, where we don't forget all that Cara has meant to us. And where we also walk with the pain of her physical absence from us. Where we remember how old she would have been. Where we share with our kids how much they're missing from having an incredible older sister like Cara would have been here on earth. And where we tell them she is still there for them...watching over them...walking with them...still there as their older sister in a way we can't totally explain, but one day we'll understand.

Another hard part of not having Cara physically here is that it's easier for her to not enter those regular daily conversations that come up with family and friends in common places like church and work. I really think this is a very hard aspect of losing someone you love. With their physical absence from this world, it just becomes less commonplace for them to enter conversations. It's not that people are trying to be mean, but with that person gone it's harder to talk about common things like whether they are crawling or walking yet, what grade they're in at school this year...things like that.

Because of your loved one's absence from conversations, I think this is one of the reasons babyloss parents and all those who have lost somebody they love, greatly appreciate it when a friend is intentional and talks to them about their child. I like to think of it like you can talk to that parent like their child is still alive, not physically alive of course, but somehow still very much alive, and a part of your life.

But this can be harder with stillborn babies. For some terrible reason, stillborn babies can be more easily forgotten. Based on some comments we've gotten and other stories I've heard from other blogs, it's as if since that baby was sleeping, some people act like that baby never lived and that there were not people who loved that baby, parents with dreams for that child, and a mother who carried the baby tenderly for months. That baby lived. Just tragically the baby was born sleeping and died way too soon.

So I suppose I'm venting a little. But at the core of it all I just don't want people to forget Cara. I know we never will, but it sure seems like an uphill battle sometimes in our microwave society that doesn't seem to get it. But I'm thankful for friends that do get it. I'm thankful for family and friends that allow Cara to be a part of their lives, that live with the presence of her spirit close by and with the hope that one day they'll be reunited with our sweet baby too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is this your first?

Over the past 9 months, Cynthia and I have been asked this question too many times than we'd like to remember. At the store, at the pool, at restaurants, during conversations with complete strangers, at the hospital and even at the clinic from a few nurses.

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


I have been fairly absent from this space. These past few weeks have been difficult ones for me physically. I was in triage at the hospital twice and then admitted once for four days for signs of early labor.

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.