Friday, October 16, 2009

Grief Chronicles, Volume 9

1. I am closing off a bit.

I have always been pretty outgoing. We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so being friendly, and quickly finding my niche within a certain population of people got to be a matter of survival. It is a good skill to have. I am finding myself losing that somewhat after going through this. I make people cry all around me when I let them in on a small piece of my tragedy. People find it horrific and unfathomable (which it is). I don’t want to be the source of making people feel bad. I am kind of torn. I need to have people around me that care about me. I am now reluctant to expand my network. I will be on Facebook and find an old friend I haven’t talked to in years, and I wonder what they are up to, but I won’t go out and “friend” them because then they will want to know about me, and I am one big sad story right now. Or, if I find myself out somewhere at a party or some other gathering, and my radar picks up, and I see people I could potentially be friends with, I don’t go over and do what I do to start reaching out. I find myself closed off and in self-protection mode. From perfect strangers! Am I headed towards becoming a hermit of sorts? I have had times in my life when I was surrounded by a lot of people that loved me, and times when I didn’t. I much prefer having lots of people in my life. But that costs me a lot more these days to keep reaching out.

2. My life post-Noah is completely unfulfilling.

I get up every day and it is all about me. My career. My interests. Whatever I want, I get. It sucks. I turned 30 one year ago, and on that milestone birthday, I said goodbye to having life be all about me. I was officially ready to have it all be about someone else. I didn’t think that giving up being selfish would be easy, but it turns out that it totally was. It is hard to explain, but I loved my son so much, that fulfilling whatever he wanted or needed was the very best thing in the world for me. It was more fun and interesting than anything I could ever do for myself. Now that he is gone, I have resumed my old life, and it holds no meaning for me anymore. For the grief group I am in, I had a homework exercise where I had to list things that I enjoyed before this happened. I could think of a million different things. The point was to help you get back into your life again. But, I stared down at my list and none of it charged my batteries at all. I could care less about any of it. The one thing that I want to do is be a mother and for now, I can’t be one.

3. I see him in us.

One Saturday morning when we were waking up, Chris stretched in just such a way that Noah did when he was here. Or, I caught myself in a mirror one day with a wrinkled brow, and it looked just like how he would do his. Or, I spent a week looking at Noah’s hands in pictures, and figured out that what was so eye catching for me about them was that they were Chris’s hands. It is a strange shock of realization, and then sad at the same time to grasp how our son was a mixture of us, but he isn’t here to look deeper to see what else is there. It haunts me. He had his father’s easy going personality. He had my nose and lips. But what else? I wish he were here so we could learn more about what else was there that was part us, and what parts were just uniquely him.

4. Am I going crazy?

They said in the grief groups that we have attended that there will be times when you feel like you are going crazy. I am just coming off of a week like that. I don’t quite know why, but every decision I have to make is a huge deal, I can not handle any changes in my day to day routine, I can’t seem to get anything done, and I cry a lot for no good reason. I am just sad. It takes a particularly larger effort to make it through my day. When I get two minutes to myself, I find myself crying, which is awkward because I am at work. This whole routine seems to last for about a week when it hits me. When I come out of it for those rare moments of clarity, I am embarrassed by my behavior. But in the moment, I just can’t help it. I am relying on the fact that this strong surge of feeling won’t last forever, because I have had weeks where I have felt ok. It is just every so often that I have one of these utterly raw “crazy” weeks.

5. Noah is up in heaven…

  • hanging out with Grandma Heinen, who I imagine is his primary care giver. She is taking him to the zoo, art museums, parks, and other fun places.
  • playing with kittens with Aunt Mary Lou.
  • whittling wood and whistling by a camp fire with Uncle Don.
  • eating peaches, and skipping rocks into a river with D-Daddy.
  • working on very well thought out educational art projects with Aunt Pat.
  • sitting on Uncle Max’s lap, listening to stories.
  • setting off fire crackers with Granny.
  • playing tennis ball with Sigmund, who is at his side at all times.
  • baking and decorating cookies with Great Grandad Wallace.
  • sitting reclined in God’s lap and arms, and asks for the millionth time what we are up to down here and how much we miss him. God patiently, and for the millionth time, tells him.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Birthday

Today is my birthday. It is also one year since we decided that we wanted to have a baby. So, I am sad that I am not where I wanted to be in my life at 31, and also sad because it is the first Noah anniversary of the year. I have been kind of dreading the day. Those that have been through this and are a little wiser at this stuff told me that I would do better if I had a plan. I heard from a co-worker that up in Denver, they were doing “A Walk to Remember,” which is a walk and ceremony for parents that have lost infants. That sounded perfect. If I was going to be missing my boy on my birthday, at least I could be in a healthy grieving environment. I signed us up, and it did the trick. I was looking forward to participating in the event, and being around others that know what this whole experience feels like. I also ordered us Noah t-shirts to wear so everyone could see who we are missing.

I woke up this morning to discover that Colorado is covered in ice, and there was a drizzle of freezing rain adding to the excitement. My mom and two best friends Mary and Jenny came over to go to the event with Chris and I. We gave it our best shot, and by the time we got up to the north end of town, we had seen enough bad accidents to scare the bejesus out of us and make us turn around and go home. I knew that the best strategy for the day would be to have an open and loose attitude, and to just go with the flow, whatever that meant in any given circumstance, so it didn’t bum me out too bad. I was disappointed, yes, but I was also in a car with some of my favorite people, so that’s all that really mattered, right?

We decided to go out to a nice breakfast close to home, and settled for Adam’s Mountain Café in Manitou Springs. After our stomachs were filled with banana walnut pancakes with real maple syrup, eggs and sunflower toast, we ran by the grocery store to get some balloons. The ceremony for A Walk to Remember includes a balloon release. I loved the idea, so we decided to do that part on our own. We wrote messages on them to Noah, and then walked down to Rock Ledge Park, the park at the end of my street where I walked just about every day the second half of my pregnancy. We found a good spot, and took turns reading off our messages to Noah, and releasing the balloons. They disappeared up into the cloud bank. It felt like they really went to him. Jenny’s made an awesome loop-de-loop before rising all the way up. All of them looked pretty graceful as they made their way up to the heavens.
It was in the 20’s, damp and misty, so we were freezing and eager to go home for hot chocolate with marshmallows, blankets and a good working furnace. I spent the rest of the afternoon with the girls watching a movie and spending time talking and enjoying each other’s company. Chris took me out for Thai food for dinner tonight. We are now relaxing and hanging out. I survived the day, and had fun with some of my favorite people.

Side note: Chris and I got our final test results back from the geneticists at Children’s Hospital. We are, as we suspected, both carriers of the MCADD deficiency. This was no surprise, because in order to have a sick child like Noah, we had to both be at least carriers. We are relieved that this is all that we have. It could have been that one of us had full blown MCADD and that it just never manifested itself in us yet, or it could have shown that we had some other weird issue. With us both being carriers, this is the lowest risk scenario going forward. We have a 25% chance of having another MCADD baby. We have a 50% chance of having a baby that is a carrier like us. We have a 25% chance that we will have a baby that has no MCADD whatsoever, carrier or full blown case. It is a relief to know our actual odds going forward.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Grief Chronicles, Volume 8

1. I hardly feel like a mother.

I only got to do it, in practice, for 4 days. My life has changed because of what I have been through, but nothing in my day to day life is really that different from before I got pregnant. So, I really don’t feel like a mom. Want to get me crying? Validate that I was a mother in some way. Say “how are you feeling, mom?” I am desperate to be a mother. I went through all of this because I wanted to be somebody’s mother. I technically am one. I successfully got pregnant, and carried him to term. I went through childbirth (like a champ, I might add), and I did care for an infant, but here I stand empty handed. So what am I? I don’t feel like a mother. I get a full night’s sleep. I don’t have spit up on my clothes. I do whatever I want to do when I want to do it. My husband and I can go out together and we don’t need babysitters. So, again, what am I? A woman with a broken heart, that had a precious gift ripped away. I was robbed of the experience.

2. I am exhausted.

It is interesting, the physical effects of grief. I am exhausted just about all the time. The thing is that it takes me 8 times as much energy to do basic things in my life now. I am extremely inefficient. My brain doesn’t want to focus on anything, and it takes a lot of energy to MAKE myself focus on any one particular task. Cooking. Doing laundry. Making it through a project or two at work each day. In terms of feeding myself, I am eternally grateful for Dream Dinners, a really cool place where you can make a bunch of dinners in the span of an hour, and then take them home and freeze them for later use. I have gone off and on over the last few years. I am now a regular, because it makes dinnertime a lot easier for someone who is only functioning at about half capacity. Also, since being back at work, by the time I make it through a regular day, I am pooped. The evenings have been really hard for me in terms of controlling my grief (can you really do that anyways?!). I am sad and tired, and struggling pretty hard because I am completely out of gas, and don’t have the wherewithal to use any of the tools I have learned through counseling and support groups to help me feel better. All I want to do is come home, and have some time of doing nothing. Turn off my brain for a while. I don’t always have that luxury because I do have a pretty busy life, but I take it when I can get it. I am in grief/therapeutic groups on Mondays and Wednesdays. My husband usually likes to hang out with me during some of my free time (imagine that!), plus there are the usual household chores that need attention. My free time evaporates quickly. I always have a sense of feeling behind on something, which keeps me feeling somewhat down, and has an impact on my ability to relax, and everything takes me a lot longer to do, so overall, I am just kind of a mess.

3. I am learning to face the “holy ground” places.

Noah was home for two days before he passed away. The evening he died was extremely traumatic, as you can imagine. We were home when he lost consciousness. During that whole chain of events, we were in a few different places in the house. These places have haunted us ever since. Chris’s grief counselor referred to these places as “holy ground.” Some of them we have faced since coming home. Some we have been avoiding for these last three months since it happened. I think it is not all that uncommon for families that have this issue to move because the reminder of this is just too painful to live around every day. For us, we just moved here about 8 months ago. This house is our dream house. We want to live here. So, what do we do?

Some of the ladies at my church casually suggested an activity called smudging. They didn’t know that we had this issue with our house. They meant it merely as a healing sort of activity that I might find interesting. Smudging is an old American Indian ritual where you burn certain herbs and blow or wave the smoke over your house in all its nooks and crannies. The smoke is supposed to grab onto the negative energy, and as it dissipates, it takes the bad energy out with it. What is left behind is good energy. It basically sets a new intention for the house.

I went home and told Chris about this, and his response was “oh brother…” So, I called my two best friends who came over last night to do this with me. I wrote up a prayer, telling God our intentions for doing this, and for his blessing as we start a new chapter in this house. We then lit our smudging sticks (which you can get at your local natural foods stores) and went about pushing the smoke in every corner of the house. It was amazing to me as we did it that I found some new places in the house that hurt me to focus on that I didn’t even realize. I had been subconsciously avoiding them. Whenever I found one of these places, I called my friends over, and would tell them what was coming up for me. We would then spend an extra minute or two smudging the spot. Doing Noah’s room was particularly hard. I think we all cried. The whole time we smudged the house, we thought of the good things that we wanted to see in each room. It was an incredibly healing exercise.

This morning I woke up and I felt a new peace in the house that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I was a lot less scared of my house. Again, I didn’t realize the fear I felt about this place. It did fell “cleansed” in a way. It was very comforting. I had faced all of the hard places for me, and had done an act of cleaning out the bad energy associated with it. I am grateful for my friends for doing this with me, because I couldn’t have done it alone. They were good sports, and infused many of their own blessings over my house. Thank you Mary and Jenny!