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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A Leftover Type of Day

Happy Angelversary, A.G. Today, my leftover sadness, tears, pain, and outrage are being acknowledged – just for a moment – as I let them pass by on their way again. Today isn’t a day for a lot of words. Today is a day to get back in bed with all my clothes on and be comforted when my dog and husband join me – my Hollywood burying his face in me and my husband stroking my hair.

We aren’t taking all day, but just a little time to recognize what we remember, like leaving the hospital almost exactly 365 days to the hour without you. Like getting a big hug goodbye from the nurse, Kay, who walked us out to our car and was there with us 3 out of the 4 days and nights we stayed in that dark room where I faded in and out between reality and heavy, drug-laden sleep, missing you. When the tears stream down my face, I let them fall. When I can’t breathe out of my nose anymore, I take in the oxygen through slow, deep, mouth breaths.

These leftover moments have a place today, although life has moved on and my spirit has outgrown this as a constant place. Dear, A.G., thank you for teaching me my biggest life lessons and for making me grow more than I thought possible. Thinking of you with sweet mama’s love today and everyday, always.

Hurting Hearts

Today, my friends’ hearts are hurting, and mine is hanging low, feeling only a fraction of the pain they are all feeling. Last night, a woman described to me as vibrant and always, always bubbling over with joy, unexpectedly met God. As anguishing as it is to write, so did her 15 week old baby tucked inside her womb. Her husband, also processing his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, will now be a single dad to their little daughter.

What was supposed to be one of the happiest times in this couple’s life did a 180 degree turn in a single afternoon. A moment of physical pain gave way to collapse, coma, and finality on this earth within a few hours.

I imagined this husband waking up this morning with the grief and unbelief capsizing his heart and soul in the first moment of light. Then, I realized how silly I am to think he even slept for a moment last night. I imagined him trying to explain to their little daughter that mommy will never pour her a glass of milk again, or tuck her in and read her bedtime stories. I questioned the logistics of navigating everyday life now (whatever that is) aside from the sorrow – going to work, playing at the park, doing laundry, and so on.

I imagine my sweet friend, 37 weeks pregnant, trying to enjoy this miracle time in her life without her bubbly friend. I imagine how she is going to turn this tragedy into compassion and appreciation. My hurting heart goes out to her as she and her husband process their overwhelming grief in the midst of their strongest joy, balancing polarizing emotions in the same breath.

I have never met this woman and, until this afternoon, had never even seen a photo of her. But, along with everyone else touched with these events, I cannot begin to comprehend what this means for her community. Her family will never be able to know how many people will pause, say a healing prayer, and will join them – even for a moment or two – in their sorrow.

Today, I pray for Renee and everyone she has affected with her too-short life. I send out nourishing energy to their souls and – with the knowledge of my own journey through the grieving process – stand tall with them as they begin this long and truly never ending journey of missing their girl. It’s not easy, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but – if you let it be – this grief and her life can be transformative for your spirits. Let her life serve the purpose of enhancing yours – not only with her memories – but with the lessons she gives you now and tomorrow.

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.