Monday, July 26, 2010


We have been really fortunate that most of the people in our lives have taken great care to tread lightly when it comes to our grief. I sit in grief group and hear some of the asinine comments and actions that are said and done to my fellow grievers and I just can't believe how insensitive people can be and thank my lucky stars that my circle of family and friends doesn't behave that way. It has taken a year before I truly got smacked in the face by some well intentioned relatives that don't quite seem to get what complete a-holes they are being. This is hard. Unfortunately what they have done is permanent and finding forgiveness feels very impossible. My heart is broken yet again. The problem is that our resistance to what feels like small things to someone else is nil. Little things are huge to us. We struggle and fight for every small piece of sanity we can on this journey. We don't come by it easily. We work so hard, and then someone can come along and just knock you five steps backwards. It is so unfair. With my knowledge and understanding of this new God that I am learning to love and believe in, he may not have the power to control our actions, but he can put thoughts and feelings into our hearts and minds to try to sway us. He can empower those around you to say and do things to encourage certain decisions as well. I guess in the end, it is up to us to make the right decision...or not. This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder what kind of bullshit world is this? Is it complete anarchy? How do I survive in a world where I have to live with whatever dumb choices someone else has made? Especially when it impacts me so directly. Speechless. Just speechless...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Feeling Guarded

I work downtown. Colorado Springs’ downtown area is very typical of most of the quaint mountain towns in this state with a main drag that runs down the middle that houses lots of cute boutique-style stores, fountains, artwork and lots of people. I love walking up and down this street at lunch. It clears my head for my afternoon schedule, and being pregnant, it has been a great way to keep in shape since walking is the main activity I can do.

It seems like the bigger I get, the more and more people feel a strange sense of familiarity with me. They always ask me about the baby and who knows what else to do with my family, and my decisions around having him, etc. Last time I was pregnant, I found it mildly annoying but put up with it. This time, I absolutely hate it. I have a huge wall up. Inevitably, people will ask if this is my first baby, and then it all goes downhill from there. I will never deny Noah’s existence. He happened. He mattered. He is my oldest child and always will be. Aaron is his younger brother, and I love him tremendously. Watching him grow is one of the greatest joys of my life. The fact is that together (the boys, Chris and I) we form an unusual family unit. It is none of anyone’s business. I don’t want to have to lie. I don’t want to have to be bothered to talk about it to strangers either. Yet, people can’t seem to take a hint when I answer their questions as quickly as possible, and don’t ask any in return. Or when I quickly walk away as soon as I can. Or try to change the subject. They persevere on follow me and fire more questions at me.

Maybe they are too blinded by their own fond memories of starting their families to realize that I am trying to get away from them and dodge their questions. For me it Is extremely uncomfortable and stressful. I am too nice to fire off an unexpected response like “Um….I am not pregnant. Why, do I look it?” or maybe just to say straight out “this is my second child. My oldest died last summer when he was four days old.” As I have learned, the truth sparks on far worse conversation. The person I spring this on tears up, or grasps for words of comfort that are usually cliché and unhelpful, and I get stuck trying to comfort them when I am the one that lost the child.

So I guess the moral of the story is, if you see a six foot tall pregnant woman walking briskly through downtown, stay away. Let her go on. Yes she is pregnant. Yes she is excited about it. No need for you to jump in on it with your own commentary and line of questioning. All she wants is some peace.

Catching Up (Whew!)

This is a bit weird. I just posted a TON. I have been writing these last few posts out of order. Mostly it was an issue of feeling moved to write them at different times and just going with it when the urge hit. Therefore I have been sitting on some for a while until I got caught up. This, dear friends, is it. I am caught up (for now!). Enjoy!

Taking a break

After the intensity of trying to make it through those first year anniversaries with Noah, it has felt good to take a few steps back and to just live life like normal as much as possible. It has felt good to get up every day and just focus on what lies ahead of us. I think he would approve. I worry tremendously that he carries this on his soul, our grief. Of one thing I am certain, and that is how much he loved us, and lord knows that you never want to hurt the people that you love. We can’t help but feel sad over him not being here like he should under normal circumstances, but at the same time, I think that we do need to carve out moments for normalcy and even joy where we can. Aaron has hit a growth spurt and watching that happen has been fun and also provided some much needed relief. Maybe it is the new issue of having multiple children, and having to split your time focusing on each one as needed. We did our focusing on Noah with the anniversaries, and now it is Aaron’s turn for a bit.

In the back of my heart and mind, I am concerned about taking a break like how we are – not going to grief group, going to counseling less frequently and such – when the inevitable crash will happen. Whenever I have loosened up on this grief work, I end up reaching a time when the sadness, depression, anxiety, guilt, fear and other grief feelings come crashing in. I will have thought that I have dealt with it and rationalized it enough, but I end up being so wrong. New layers surface and I get sucked back in. Will that happen again? Likely. So what do I do then? I am trying to focus on what my reality is right in this moment and know that when it hits, I will need to reach out to the resources that are there again to dig me back out. This is a long journey. That much is certain. In the meantime I try to enjoy the breaks when I can get them.

Angelversary Day

The other moms out there that have lost babies call the anniversary of the day that their child died the “Angelversary” or “Angel Day.” It is a less painful way of referring to the day. It is the anniversary of the day that the world ended for us. The day we learned that the worst really can and will happen to us. Some of us knew that the day was coming when our children were still here. Some of us like me had no clue. To get through the birthday is really hard, but to get through this day is the worst. There is a DVD set to replay in our brains, and the whole time you just can’t help but put yourself back in the tragedy that was this day a year or years ago that it happened. It requires special thought and care to get through it. I was shaken up from it for days afterwards.

The plan for us was to stay home together and avoid everyone and everything. We just needed to be together and to be busy. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we will have to move Noah out of his room soon to make room for his brother. It is such a painful task, but it has to be done. I knew that there had to be somewhere that we put Noah’s things where they could all be together, and not hidden away in the back of a closet or storage area. It is comforting to have them close by after all. I have had a hard time finding just the right storage chest, so I asked Chris if he would build Noah a special chest where all his things can be. It will live at the foot of our bed, and it will be made to match the rest of our furniture. I think Noah would approve. He spent most of his time with us in our room, so for his things to be there with us would feel good to him.

For Father’s Day, I took Chris to Lowes to pick out the wood for it. They had a lot of great options for a project like this. What we kept coming back to was a section that had all solid aspen boards. That was it. It felt perfect. To date, Noah is the only child in this family that was born and spent his life in Colorado. Aspen trees in Colorado are part of what we are known for out here. We both felt pretty excited and misty eyed when we made the decision that that would be it. We got all the materials and tucked them away for June 30th, Noah’s Angel Day.

I have to admit that we spent the majority of the day feeling numb. We got up and went out to breakfast at a new favorite spot in our neighborhood. Chris needed a last item or two for the chest so we went and got those things and then headed home. He spent most of the day just getting everything cut. Since there wasn’t much that I could help with, I got out Noah’s Christmas stocking that I had started making but had not finished and focused my time on that. Chris helped me drag a chair out to the garage so we would be close by one another as we worked. We both focused on our projects most of the day. Later in the afternoon, Chris got to be worried about all the sawdust and what that might be doing to Aaron so I took off and treated myself to a pedicure. By the time I came home, he was done with what he was doing, so I could settle back in working again.

As the evening came on, I started noticing myself slipping out of the numb feelings and getting into the angry-jealous-crazy feelings that have sometimes come along on this grief journey. I would stop a tirade of crazy thought and wonder where the heck it was coming from. I finally looked at the clock and realized that it was getting to the time when everything went downhill very fast one year ago. We lost Noah the night of June 30. There were a wild series of events that took up most of the evening, and he died just before midnight. (Again, I don’t want to talk about the details of it all because it is the worst experience I have ever lived through and I don’t want to relive it any more than I already do at times like this.) As the evening progressed I felt it more and more intensely, and over dinner, I told Chris how I was feeling. He suggested that we leave the house and go do something. Everything happened at home last year, so both the combination of watching the clock and being in the house where it all happened was exacerbating the feelings. It was a good idea. We hurried up and ate, and got out of there as soon as we could.

We went to the movie theater to see what was playing. We decided to go see “Grown Ups,” the new Adam Sandler movie. It was perfect. For two hours, I couldn’t pay close attention to the clock, and the movie was funny. It was a good distraction. It got out late, and we had to work the following day, so we went home and went to bed. I woke up the next day feeling unsettled, because there were the anniversaries of those days too – waking up that next day and realizing that the horror that was the night before had truly been real. My boy was gone and not coming back. The days that followed where the baby books got moved off the bedside table, and the grief books took their place. Having to plan his funeral, having to arrange to have some of the baby things put away or moved out before we came home again. Those first few weeks were agony.

Noah’s chest isn’t completed yet. I told Chris to take his time with it. I think it is important to be emotionally present when you do something like this. It shouldn’t be done with any hard deadlines. The intentions and love that go into it need to be preserved and honored, and I want him to do it when he feels good about doing it. He is not the kind of guy to start things and not finish them. I know he will get it completed. At the end of it when it is done, I want him to feel good about what he made and how he made it so that it is therapeutic to him too. I will post pictures when we have something to share. He has a few pieces put together, and he can kind of hold it up and show me how it is going to be a chest. He is doing such a great job on it!

At the end of it all, we survived. We also learned what we need to do to get through it. Clearly, we need to plan an activity that is completely different from our daily routine at home on the evening of the 30th. I think being home together busy working on things was also valuable. There is no ignoring this day. I was amazed at myself that even without realizing it, there was something in me that sensed the time and the grief feelings came and took hold of me. I just need to plan better now that I know. One year down. Many more to come. It is exhausting to think about, but somehow we will do it.

Noah's 1st Birthday

The Memorial Statue

This is just part of the huge mass of families that showed up

Chris and I with Noah's Cake

Noah and his cake...

Me and the girls

Noah's Flowers at Church

I can’t believe my boy is a year old. It has been one of the hardest years of my life, but not for the reasons you would expect upon reaching your child’s first birthday. I figured by this point, I would be feeling a strong sense of accomplishment after spending the year watching him reach lots of milestones like the first time he sat up, rolled over, smiled, laughed, and began to make first tentative steps. I figured I would be tired from the repeated middle of the night wake up calls, flu bugs to navigate through, and the ups and downs of learning to be a parent for the first time. But overall I would feel elated that we had made it through our first year as a family. It has instead been a year of confronting life and death issues, grief, and learning to have meaningful life after losing someone so close to you. Regardless, it is an occasion to be celebrated. We have made it through a lot, and his life, although short was something miraculous and should be celebrated.

It has been hard to come up with the right way to do it. I felt a lot of pressure around it. I want it to be a family holiday. I want Aaron to grow up celebrating this day with us and even look forward to it and beg us to let him invite friends along because it is a day that we have a lot of fun together. Having Noah’s birthday in the summer is great because we can in the coming years take the day and go white water rafting, or ride mountain bikes off the top of Pike’s Peak or some other outrageously crazy thing that we have access to out here that is incredibly fun. The hard thing is that Chris and I are not the only grieving ones in this scenario. Our family and friends are too and have different limitations as to where they are in their own process and what they can and can’t do. It was a balancing act trying to include all that want to participate and find an activity that is healing and meaningful for all involved. We have years of Noah’s birthday ahead of us for the wild adventuresome things. Look for those blog posts in years to come!

What I found was an organization in Denver that does a yearly butterfly release ceremony to honor children (mostly babies) that have been lost at a memorial especially designed and placed for the surviving parents, family and friends. It happened to be on Noah’s birthday this year. What I think all of us needed most was to come together while this is still so fresh and new, and grieve him one more time. It was a very hard emotional day for Chris and I, and it ended up being the perfect way to get through it. We were surrounded by tons of families that have lived the exact same thing, and it was very comforting.

We got up very early. They did the event in the morning so that the butterflies wouldn’t stay in their packaging for longer than necessary. We all met at our house and headed up to Denver to the memorial. That morning my parents saw an enormous vibrant rainbow over their house and took pictures. Last summer after Noah died, there were the most incredible rainbows in the weeks following, We took it to be a sign. The fact that they saw one today was pretty neat.

When we got up to Denver, we found the memorial, got our butterflies and settled in. It was touching to see some of the name plates along the memorial wall. I have seen from my fellow grieving parents’ pictures on Facebook that this memorial is a design that is all over the country. The angel statue and memory wall is standard fare. I didn’t realize that we had one in Colorado. It was good to see one up close for myself, and it was both comforting and sad to know that this exists because there were enough parents out here that need it.

The other families filed in. There were so many! There were tons of children there too. Looking around at these folks, you can see the holes in their families where their child should be that passed away. It was also amazing to see the perseverance of those that went ahead with their families and had more children just as we have decided to do.

Eventually they started the service. They read some poetry and other meaningful things. The main part was when they read off the names of the babies. Again it was amazing to see what all of us have been through. Some families lost multiple children. I can’t even imagine! Hearing Noah’s name was hard. I think all of us shed a tear at that point. I appreciated that they took care to make sure that each name had their own space. They didn’t rush. Then at the very end, they played some music and we released the butterflies. It was so graceful watching them come out of their packaging, gently unfold their wings and take off. The neat thing was that they butterflies lingered a bit (likely shocked from being in their containers for that long), but all the children that were present went and chased them off out of the surrounding fields. There was so much joy in their little faces as they did it. It was really very poignant and moving. These are the siblings of these lost children that are here fulfilling some of our broken hearts. To see their joy was contagious.

It was hard to get good pictures during all of this. We were all feeling emotional, so it wasn’t such a great time to gather everyone together to smile and say cheese, so what we have are mostly candids. Noah was very much on our hearts through it all. It was very healing for all of us to be together and to do this symbolic act of releasing butterflies in his memory.

After the ceremony was complete, we went for breakfast at a country club down the street from the park. Everything was free with this event! The organization that does this works very hard with fundraising and does these wonderfully healing events without asking parents for a penny. The breakfast and club were absolutely beautiful. Being together at this point allowed us to laugh and enjoy one another’s company. It was a good balance between the more emotional heaviness of the ceremony.

Afterwards we came back home. I had gotten a cake for Noah along with balloons and ice cream. Noah’s Aunt Jenny got him a bee balloon as well which was really sweet. I got his cake from this wonderful Dutch bakery in town that made one of my baby shower cakes. I got the exact same flavors too. So, by proxy, he had this cake too once upon a time. I had them decorate it to match the bee design in his room. It was absolutely beautiful. We sang happy birthday to him (which I barely got through) and blew out a candle for him. The cake tasted amazing, just as I had remembered it. We spent a while hanging out with everyone which was nice. After a few hours, everyone went home. Chris and I then took a long walk through the park at the end of our street where I walked just about every day when I was pregnant with Noah. I also managed to get him through there once before he died. It is a pretty special place for us.

We spent the rest of the day together and went out to eat. It was a nice balance between celebrating Noah with our family and friends, as well as having time to ourselves to reflect. It was bittersweet. It was the anniversary of the best day of my life, and remembering the joyful details that made up that day was fun, however, not being able to celebrate it with Noah here was of course hard.

The next day at church, Chris and I sponsored the flowers up on the chancel. Again, this is another Noah spot for us. I sat there in church every Sunday when I was pregnant with him and felt him kicking along with the hymns. It was important to remember him there as well. The arrangement that the florist did was beautiful. My parents came to see them up there as well.

As with how all of these things go, we survived. We had a tremendous amount of support around us which was not only nice to have, but it was necessary. Our boy may not be here, but we are still so loved and cared for by those around us, and to be reminded of that meant so much more than I could possibly explain. The only way we have made it through this year is to have that kind of love around us. Thanks to you all and Happy Birthday Noah!