And So On: A Tribute To Healing

How do I start this post? Should I talk about hitting rock bottom again (although this time it will be literally and not figuratively)? Do I talk about how ironic and rhythmic life seems to be? Do I talk about how losing my children seems to suck me in like a vacuum, and – all the while – I am running like hell to escape the eye of the tornado?

Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of finding out Adam Gabriel was not going to make it full term. I can tell you I am still grieving as that doesn’t go away, but also that the intensity of it has lifted. Two years out and I feel like I am catching momentum again. I can say this without a child in my arms, without being pregnant, and without knowing which year in the future our adoption is going to be completed.

My in-laws are here and they are avid bikers, so yesterday we decided to take a 30-something mile bike ride down a local mountain. When my father-in-law asked me the date for a form that morning, I internally cringed and let him know it was the 24th – the day that starts my four day mourning period each year for A.G. (These are the horrendous four days between arriving to the hospital and delivering our angel; these dates aren’t something I really talk about with my in-laws, so I am not sure if they are cognizant of their meaning or not, although they obviously were devastated when they lost their grandson at 17 weeks of gestation.)

So, off we ride. It’s a beautiful day and I think to myself, on more than one occasion, that even though I am a little moody this morning, I am doing SO much better than the two years prior. I am enjoying the adventure and not overthinking things too much. I feel strong and healthy. I am holding it together! Well…

About 5 miles until the finish line, we need to cross another small highway that connects the trail. The guys are slightly in front of us and there is a truck coming. I have time to make the cross, but I am worried about my mother-in-law seeing the truck and I see she is swerving wide to avoid the truck which makes me pay extra attention. To her. Not to my bike’s path. I go down FAST, skidding across the loose gravel parking lot that connects us to the rest of the trail. My whole body is planted to this rocky, uneven, sharp surface. I slowly get up in a daze. I have dirt caked on my whole structure and, through the dirt, I can see I am starting to bleed in various places.

I was not worried about my physical body, but this was one of those moments you realize your mental fragility is coming to the surface because of something unexpected. I have had my share of hard knocks in the last three years, so I didn’t cry or show emotion. I know now how to control my deep sadness (mostly). My thoughts were racing though. My outside body now matched the turmoil and bruises I felt inside my body. I wanted to cry. I unbuckled my helmet because I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I let my husband use whatever water we had left to try to wash off the open skin while I stood there in silence. I gave myself an extra second to get on my bike as I still felt unsteady and tingly.

Bike Bruises

I did not survive this day as a hero. This 24th day of July was marked in truth by the unfortunate incidents of today and my past. When our group asked me how I was doing I so badly wanted to say how my outside pain matched my inner turmoil, although the internal pain was much worse. I wanted to say that this fall felt like total defeat.

Oh…but I didn’t. I got back on my bike. I took a painful shower. I dumped hydrogen peroxide on my forearms, my shins, and my hands. I let it burn while I agonized. I did it again. I took a needle and picked the gravel out of the heel of my hand. I moved on with my day. I ate pizza and joined the group. I found a comfortable (enough) position to sleep despite my lacerated body.

This is what we do. We suffer. We remember. We pick ourselves up and try to heal. We remember. We suffer. We pick ourselves up and try to heal. We heal. We remember. We suffer again, but less. We heal a little more. And so on.

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Hitting The Restart Button (Whenever It is Needed)

This morning my Facebook news feed reminded me that I had a special memory from two years ago. The caption reads, “[My name here], we care about you and the memories you share here. You posted this photo exactly 2 years ago. We thought you’d like to look back on it today.” The memory is a photo, happily announcing my pregnancy with Adam Gabriel (at over 4 months pregnant). I was given the option to share the memory again with all of my Facebook connections. How thoughtful, Facebook. Really.

Pregnancy Announcement_privacy edit

*Edited family name for privacy.

Many of us whom have experienced loss have numerous instances like this. These moments bring out the immature, “life’s not fair” little girl in me. But, today, that’s all I am going to say about that and I am going to move on to brighter subjects because – in the end – that’s all we can really do. Unattach from the negativity, the sadness, the grief…and remember how lucky we are in so many other ways. Remember that we are loved. Remember that all our experiences give us an opportunity to grow in depth and compassion. Hit our restart buttons and press on, clinging to healthier attitudes and actions.

Life actually feels like it’s taking upward turns (slowly, but it’s happening). The days are long, the sun is vibrant, and – as I’ve mentioned – I’ve been given the opportunity to connect with many loved ones. Furthermore, my husband and I completed our first session with a spiritual director yesterday. We are so excited to have some spiritual guidance – some life-coaching so to speak –  from a woman seeming to know what questions to have us ask ourselves in order to help us flourish in congruence with reality and our faith. After ridding ourselves of some things that weren’t serving us anymore in our conversation with her, we felt relaxed.

And, within the hour, we got a call from our adoption agency. The birth mom of the little boy we are matched with completed her adoption training! This means that everything is still on track for a hopeful referral before 2015 closes. The birth mom still needs to wait 30 days and sign her intentions again, but – for today – we have made progress. Today, we notice that we have moved from the intense, relentless grief of losing our son (and three other, younger babies) to a place that feels like there is a crack of light.

July marks a flood of sadness for me ever since losing A.G. The sadness is still there, but THIS July we are making progress on our adoption. THIS July, we are working on our marriage. THIS July, we are learning hard lessons of perseverance and patience. I look around me and see others hurting more than I am. I think of how this Haitian birth mom is experiencing some of her darkest days and making brave decisions for her family. I say prayers for mercy. I say prayers of thanks. I can’t wait to see what next July brings for all of us.

What Trauma Sometimes Looks Like

And then there was this moment
tonight
one year and a half later
when you realize

you never told your husband you were having his son

it was just a fleeting thought
a response to something on tv
and you looked over at him, puzzled, and
asked, “When did you know we were having a son?”
he replied, confused, starting his response with “we”
and you stop him and ask him, “Did you know before you got to the doctor’s office? The hospital? Did I tell you over the phone? Did I say “son”?”

And you realize he didn’t. You didn’t. He says, “We found out when he was born, when we held him.”

I am confused now. Trying to put the scattered, blurry pieces together – didn’t I know after the ultrasound, the one where there was no heartbeat? Didn’t the doctor say, “Do you want to know? [Insert my head nodding….?] You were having a son.” (Did she say “You were having” or “You have” or something else that gave more or less meaning to his short life?)

And I tell my husband, “I knew. I knew we were having a son. I knew four days before he was born.” I knew four days before you. I never told you.

Did I say “sorry”? I don’t know. He’s asleep now and I can’t sleep because I am thinking about how we were going to go to dinner to celebrate after finding out the sex together and then decorate with sailboats or flamingos…but I found out four days before him. I found out before calling him to come to the doctor’s office because, it turns out, I wasn’t having a routine appointment. I found out before trying to hide my tears when I walked through the waiting room, putting on a brave face for the still-expectant mothers and fathers.

I knew before the nurse lectured me on the time of day I take my thyroid medicine (since that must have been the reason I was checking into the hospital with a dead fetus) and the “yes, yes please” to drugs over and over again because I wanted to sleep and escape my newfound hell. I knew before I couldn’t talk because I was so weak from not being allowed to eat for days. I knew before starting the ten or so painful hours of labor to deliver my sweet, sleeping son.

I didn’t tell him he was having a son. I couldn’t. And I didn’t know until tonight.

And this is what trauma sometimes looks like. Something is triggered. Something is confusing or sad or scary and your fight or flight response is initiated and your blood pumps faster. And it doesn’t matter how long it’s been because it feels raw, and real. It’s always unexpected and there is fire running through your veins because you are so disappointed with, and unaccepting of, reality.

You never told your husband you were having a son. Not “you never told your husband in a cute way.” Not “you decided together you were going to be surprised.” You just never told him because your world collapsed and you were fighting to get through the thing you couldn’t get through in a hospital bed.

I didn’t tell him I was having his son. I couldn’t. My world collapsed. I was fighting to get through the thing I couldn’t get through.

I suppose that’s a good reason. But it doesn’t feel like one.

The Calm After the Storm

I believe the storm may finally be over. It’s a dangerous thing to put in writing because, as soon as I think I know something, life will prove me wrong.

I am not pregnant, my job situation is still a mess, adoption is two years off by my best estimate, and I still have to baby my dog, Hollywood, in order to keep him healthy from meal to meal. But, for the moment, I feel the eye of the storm has passed and now I just have to keep moving through the aftermath, picking up all the windblown pieces of my life.

We got my genetic test back yesterday and my chromosomes are normal (enter little happy dance here). I am learning to love working part time. The adoption keeps steadily moving forward as I dream of learning how to braid cute, curly hair and nourish beautiful dark skin after bath time. I have continued to cherry pick moments in life that give me happiness…and happiness is surrounding me.

I feel more appreciative than I was able to feel most of this year. All year I felt an outpouring of compassion for others and a true spiritual awakening, but I am finally accepting where my life has led me in this moment. I feel joy bursting open in my soul from simply participating in my life.

As our dear Adam’s birthday approaches, I know my heart will never be whole again, but it may have grown deeper and wider. I am forever changed and this “new normal,” as I’ve coined it, is getting more comfortable, although laced with a sadness that I will always know. Through the sadness, though, space for the next chapter has finally been created.

I will revel in the fact that my deep breaths aren’t restricted with the anxiety and struggle that has been plaguing them for the last two years. I will continue to embrace the joy in the small, everyday moments. I will cherish the right-now, whether this truly is the calm after the storm or just a little break before the next blow. Either way, I have right now, I can breathe, and I feel peace.

Swimsuit Palooza

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

photo credit: http://24.media.tumblr.com

So, I have just bought between $800-$900 worth of swimsuits. Really.

No, I am not wealthy. No, I am not manic or a hoarder. I will return all but one, really! I just happened to be gaining weight after a misfortunate event and am a tad out of control these days, in more ways than one, and have never had a reason to own a one piece suit until now, until I got a little more sensitive about my body. Let me back up…

Yesterday I would have found out if my husband’s and my first child was a boy or a girl. We were going to go to dinner to celebrate and then start selecting nursery items (flamingos or sailboats, perhaps). We had names picked out. We had cleared the back bedroom for the baby’s arrival. At three months, my parents announced the arrival of their 10th grandchild at their 40th anniversary party with more than 150 guests. I had waited 4 months, but then gave in and made the pregnancy “Facebook official” with a cute announcement with a tiny, stylish baby carriage. Against all odds, we found out we were having a boy 3 weeks earlier than we expected to receive the news.

I went for my 16.5 week check-up. My husband and I decided he didn’t need to come since it was just a routine check-up. Afterall, we’d seen the baby and its heartbeat at 8 weeks, and then again heard the heartbeat at 12 weeks. This is when I realized sometimes you fall into the 1%. Sometimes your baby’s heart just stops. You’ll never know if you were sleeping, running, working or laughing, but the little soul inside of you just slipped away quietly.

The details could take hours to divulge, but here is the short version. The ultrasound tech looked at me with tears in her eyes. The doctor sat beside me and explained it wasn’t my fault – I couldn’t have protected the little one against fate. I called my husband. I called my mother. Somewhere in there the reality started to sink in and I allowed myself to cry. I packed a bag for the hospital without diapers, a tiny onsie, or the baby blanket my sister gave me less than a month ago.

I received the staff’s stares when I checked into the labor and delivery floor because they were all expecting me and were curious about this girl, this couple, having to deliver a dead baby. I was poked up and down my arms until, on the fifth try and third health professional, a vein was found that would accept the IV. I spent 4 days in the hospital with drugs being delivered, by people I had just met, through my arm and between my legs, largely consisting on ice chips, popsicles and pain killers.

I cried, I slept, I accepted love and prayers from visiting friends. On the third day I asked if I could please shower, and my husband had to come in with me since I couldn’t bend one arm, compliments of the IV entry. On the fourth day, I delivered a healthy-looking baby boy at 5-6cm dilation, moments before the doctors would have to make the difficult choice to put me through complicated surgery to remove the contents of my uterus.  My husband and I held him. We prayed with him. We gave him away forever.

We named him Adam Gabriel. Afterall, he is our first son and is quite literally an angel now. We put all his things in the back bedroom that my husband can’t enter anymore without getting choked up. I kept bleeding and crying as we accepted visitors, meals, flowers and notes. I went back to work. I started running again. I stopped bleeding and, mostly, stopped crying. Then, I bought swimsuits.

I bought swimsuits that might help me forget that my body has been through war but I don’t have Adam to cuddle and kiss. I bought swimsuits that would leave me less rigid at the upcoming bachelorette party as I try to hide the layer of fat left on my stomach – and the pain threatening to roll down my cheeks – that reminds me something happened.

Dearest Adam Gabriel, our angel baby:

I have faith in our Creator that you lived the life of your soul’s purpose. I have faith you were warm and know you were loved by so many, so many whom cried with us in between patients at work, cried with us at the movies, or cried with us at the grocery store when they heard the news. I fervently worry that you struggled to breathe – to let someone know – but know that won’t do either of us any good at this point.

I feel great pain at your absence, but I need you to know that you gave me immeasurable happiness in the time we had together. It has been a hard year – and of course now I have this new struggle with your departure – but you provided me with 4 months of joy, excitement, hope and love. You provided me with 4 months of stealing sweet, unbridled nectar. You will always be the one child who could do that for me in pregnancy. You will always be the first born, the first light. Please be well, visit often, and wait for me and your daddy. We’ll meet you under better circumstances once again.