Sunday, October 7, 2012

Illuminate: Believe

This post describes what my life might look like in the year ahead. 

“One year from today.”

Today, I can look at a family with one boy and one girl and be happy for what they have.

Today, it is not painful to be in a room full of families with lots of children.

Today, I no longer wish I could experience pregnancy. Just. One. More. Time.

Today, my son growing up makes me happy, not sad for what is lost forever.

Today, I fill the fullness of my life and it brings me joy.

Today, I feel the spirits of my babies with every breath I take.

Today, I appreciate the journey I have been on and where my life has taken me.

Today, I feel peace.

Today, I believe.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Illuminate: Gratitude

From the moment I read this assignment, I knew I would hate it. 

I don't have a fancy camera. I don't have a photographer's vision. I don't understand photography tricks or techniques. I take pictures of things that interest me, that create symbolism, that make me feel creative and artistic.

I went on a walk with my camera and took 100 steps, as I was told. I didn't see anything I wanted to take a picture of. Besides that, I was still in my neighborhood and felt self-conscious about what the neighbors would be thinking of me aiming my camera at random things. I cheated. I didn't take a picture. I took another 100 steps, didn't find anything interesting in where I stopped, didn't take a picture, and took another 100 steps. I didn't like that spot either. I decided to wait until I was across the street at a campus that had sculptures and gardens. I waited until I saw things in the distance that look photo-worthy and took another 100 steps. How was I supposed to make this patch of grass look interesting? There's a bed of flowers over there, I'll take a picture of that. None of these things moved me. I wanted to take a picture of what I wanted to take a picture of. I became frustrated with the assignment.

I knew I was missing the point. I understood the assignment was about finding something interesting/creative/artistic/beautiful/whatever in wherever I was at that moment. 

I eventually gave in and took a picture or two with every 100 steps. I wasn't satisfied with the pictures, though. They weren't interesting. They weren't what I wanted to take pictures of. I wanted to go over there and take a picture of that interesting thing. I tried doing the assignment again a few nights later. The sun was setting. I was grateful to be out for a walk after I had given up that I'd get in exercise that day. The air was crisp. The leaves were bright colors against the darkening sky. I walked. I took pictures with every 100 steps. I started to get interested in what I was doing. I found something to take a picture of. Even though sometimes I headed in a particular direction because I wanted my 100 steps to end there. I got a little frustrated at times when I took a picture I thought was terrible. I kept going. I realized that I was noticing more. I'm usually pretty observant, but I'm also usually deeply in thought. I noticed the red tips on the cactus plant. I saw the varying sized rocks scattered among the flowers. I saw the blues and purples and pinks of the pansies nestled under a tree. As I was heading home, I looked in the sky and saw how beautiful the moon was. It was stunning. It was shrouded in some fog, but bright, so bright. I took a picture every 20 or so steps as I got closer. The image never looked in the camera as amazing as it did with my naked eye. I got frustrated that I couldn't capture what I was seeing with my camera. I was discouraged that I didn't have a better camera that could get a closer shot. I fiddled with the settings on my point and shoot, all of which I've never used, having not strayed from the "automatic" setting. The pictures came out blurry and dark. They weren't capturing what I was seeing.

But, they were my pictures. They were images that nobody else will ever take again. The moon was still beautiful. The sky was still amazing. The trees were still lovely. There were many things to be thankful for. I was happy to have feet that could take me on that walk, to live in a neighborhood where these flowers and trees were flourishing, to live across the street from a company campus that welcomes visitors to walk their grounds any time. I was happy to have a husband and son waiting at home for me who would be happy to see me, to have a healthy hot meal to eat, to have a cat who had survived surgery earlier that day, to have a home I loved to go back to, to have friends who loved me and family who cherished me. And, truth be told, I was also happy to finish this assignment.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Illuminate: Shadow

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there is a light shining somewhere nearby.~author unknown

I am a shadow of my former self. Those who know me but don't know about my seven little spirits don't know me at all. Those few who do know and never explore are closer to seeing the real me...I believe they want to, they just don't know how and aren't trying to learn. Those even fewer who do know and include my babies in our friendship are the ones who truly see me.
A shadow of my Self.
It's as if I'm moving through life not as one woman, but multiple women. There's the woman who goes to work every day and does what that requires. There's the woman who mothers her son, trying constantly to balance his needs with her anxiety. There's the woman who is a wife to her steadfast husband who is showing connections to their lost children in new ways. There's the woman who wants to talk about her children and how they have impacted her life, created who she is, brought her to today...but is silenced by a society that isn't interested....discouraged by people who are uncomfortable with death and the myriad of feelings that walk alongside it...worn out by a life that squeezes every drop of energy from her. 

Most people only see the me that I present to the world. They see the tree standing solidly next to the pond. What they don't see is the tree's reflection in the pond. The reflection that is a distorted image of the real me, that is harder to make out, that has ragged edges, that moves with the light, that requires you to stop for a moment and question what you are really seeing.
 A reflection...
The world has more texture and variance now. It is a complex layer of experiences and feelings, beliefs and desires. The layers beneath what we show the world are always there, even when we tell ourselves they are not. Sometimes they shout out loud while we try to suppress them. Sometimes they peek through us as we allow them to. Our sorrow for our babies who are not with us in the flesh are with us in stronger ways. They are a part of the images we see when we open our eyes in the morning. They are a part of the food we eat to give us strength to take a step. They are the breath we take, when we remember to breathe. They are the compassion we feel towards a stranger in pain. They are the sun, peeking through the clouds to warm us when we most need it.
In the warmth of the sun.
I will never be the woman I was before I had my children. I will never have the life that I dreamed of, with the number of children I thought I would have, living where I thought I would live, having the career I thought I would have. While the woman I am today is a self I wasn't prepared for, I love her and her life. I value her and what to share her with the world. I have to bring my full self to my life. I have to bring my children to the surface so others can know them, can know me.

 I have to integrate my shadow with the rest of me so I can live as one spirit.

A spirit of the child I was, the mother of dead children I became, the mother of a living child I cherish, the wife of a husband I adore, the friend of beautiful women I heart-fully connect complex, layered, present, soulful spirit.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Illuminate: Self Portraiture

I will be reviving my blog for the next few weeks as I experience a photography course designed for bereaved parents to use photography to work through their grief. It is called "Illuminate" and is facilitated by Beryl Ayn Young. Thanks for stopping by.

Week One: Telling my story through self-portraiture and a letter to my babies

Dear Alex, Amelia, David, Elizabeth, Gabe, Madeline, and Rebecca

I miss you. I had too little time with each of you, and I tried hard to appreciate every moment we had together. It would never be enough. I learned so much from each of you. You were unique individuals who brought different things to me, and I was a different person with each of you. Alex, you made me a mother. All of you deepened my experience of  motherhood and the connection to that part of myself. Even though I wasn't considered by the word to be a mother because I had no child to prove it and live it, I was your mother from the moment you were conceived.

So, how am I doing?

I'm enjoying mothering your brother, Tyler. He is bright, curious, generous, and sweet. He asked me to give him a baby brother recently on a beautiful day at our neighborhood park. It was so unexpected, I was stunned silent. I saw a large bee fly by and knowing how nervous he gets around bees, thought he would forget asking. No luck; he asked again. I told him that I was sorry, that I tried, that I wish I could. He pressed for more. I told him his dad and I were done having children. He wasn't satisfied with that answer, but I had to let it go. I had to go. I wanted to go. I wanted to escape. I thought we were past this, that asking for a sibling was a phase all kids go through and that at age 7, we had managed to avoid it.  A few days later, he asked me again. He said there were babies in the world who needed parents and couldn't we buy one of them. (He's seven - how does he know that?) I decided the moment I had been waiting for was here. I told him he does having siblings; they just aren't here with us like we want them. He wanted to know why. I told him some of you were sick and some of you died for reasons we'll never know. I told him I tried very hard to give him a baby brother. And, that I was sorry.

This is a hat I knit for a baby boy. The brother Tyler wants will never wear this.

Tyler took the picture.

I have emotions, thoughts, revelations, all coming from my experience of mothering all of you, and I have nowhere to put them. I feel I need to move on, to be over this, to be done, to not need to talk about it, to put it in a box and put it away.

You know this box. This is the box I kept your mementos in - ultrasounds, a candle, an angel from a friend, special cards from your life. Your belongings are now in a scrapbook, which will eventually also hold letters I've written to each of you. This box is empty, to show that I have pieces of my soul I want to put somewhere. But, it's empty.

I want to put this experience of grief behind me and to start a new phase of my life. I'm nine years out from losing Alex and two years out from losing Rebecca. When am I going to be done?

When am I going to put all this grief behind me and move on to live the life I have? To appreciate what I have and not think about what I don't?

When am I going to stop trying to incorporate you into my life (and then feel frustrated and guilty when I can't find the right way)?
When am I going to stop hating this place because it's where the nightmare of losing you happened?
When am I going to stop crying at songs with lyrics that make me think of you?
When am I going to stop feeling the hole in my heart were a daughter was supposed to go?
When am I going to stop feeling "I want what you have," when I see a pregnant woman?
When am I going to stop resenting families who have one boy and one girl?
When am I going to stop trying to get others to understand?

These are the questions in my mind.
The answer is my heart is....never.

I'm never going to stop trying to incorporate you into my life.
I'm never going to stop resenting this place.
I'm never going to stop crying at song lyrics.
I'm never going to fill the hole in my heart.
I'm never going to stop feeling envy when I see a pregnant woman.
I'm never going to stop wanting what I tried for years to create.
I'm never going to stop trying to get others to understand.

I will never stop missing you. I will never stop loving you. I will never again be the person I was before each of you came into my life. I'm so grateful for that. I'm grateful for you.

I love you.


Sunday, May 20, 2012


Thank you for visiting. While I am no longer actively blogging, I am leaving my blog open and available. I welcome you to read through the posts I wrote over the years. If you would like, please leave a comment or contact me directly at

I wish you peace and healing on your journey.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guilt is a Four-Letter Word

There's a line in a Tori Amos song, "I have enough guilt to start my own religion." I've heard the song, Crucify, many times but never heard that line until last week. I hate guilt. It's a useless emotion that only serves to make us feel bad about our choices. Why can't we be gentler with ourselves?

I feel guilt over what I did or didn't do that may have hurt my babies. Alex and Amelia never gave me signs that they weren't well. I was diligent about listening to my body, even calling the nurse when I felt nervous that I wasn't showing yet with Alex. Of course, I received the "all women are different and this is your first pregnancy so don't worry" line. I knew something was wrong, but didn't want to be perceived as "hysterical." A couple of weeks later, the ultrasound confirmed the worst. I know there was nothing I could have done.

Amelia died under very similar circumstances. We discovered at 10 weeks that she had died at 7. As with Alex, there was never any bleeding, and I felt helpless. I wondered why my body was killing my babies. I demanded testing and answers.

Even with blood thinning treatment, nothing could have saved David. He had a chromosome abnormality. I actually felt relieved that something happened to him that was completely out of my hands. Having a healthy son the following year confirmed my suspicion that the blood thinning treatment was the answer. I was angry at my doctor for not testing me for that after Alex died. I had to let that go.

I never suspected Elizabeth wouldn't make it. I was doing the same treatment. After we found out she had died, I thought back over everything I had done or didn't do. I tortured myself with wondering. Was it the peppermint tea I drank to alleviate the nausea? I had used sunscreen with deet once. Was it that? Did that kill my baby? How can so many babies die for no reason?

Gabe left me naturally at barely 6 weeks, and I know he was not well. I never got to see him on an ulrasound and will never know what happened to him. Even though he was with me for such a short time, the memory of the day we lost him haunts me.

I had bleeding with Madeline. Because I had lost Gabe after bleeding, I was convinced the same thing was happening. I was beyond terrified. I went to the bathroom constantly to check. I would pull over to the side of the road while I was driving so I could check. My doctor thought I had a hemorrhage, and a week later she suspected we had lost a twin. I chose not to believe that - it was too much. I asked if I should be on bed rest, and my doctor said there was no evidence that would help. I went with my doctor's orders and went back to my life, knowing that I would go insane with anxiety if I laid around all day. I also had a two year old who needed me. Should I have insisted on bed rest? Could I have saved her? She is who I feel the most guilt for.

I went to an expert before conceiving Rebecca so I could learn what else could be done. I took a different medication that made me impossibly tired and nauseous. I had the stomach flu for a couple of days with her and insisted my doctor give me an ultrasound so I could see if she was okay. Once we learned she had a chromosome problem, I assumed it was due to my eggs being too old. One more thing to feel guilty about.

I know rationally I had no control over what happened, that I did everything in my power to keep my babies alive, but that doesn't always offer solace. I think there will always be a small part of me that wonders what I could have, or should have, done differently.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What can you say

A friend asked me to help her understand what to say to someone whose baby died. So, from the vantage point of my experience, here is my tutorial.

(These are ideas for the well-intentioned friend or loved one who just feels at a loss for what to say or do. A list of ignorant and insensitive things people say - that's a subject for another post.)

Saying "I'm sorry this happened to you" is always a good start. Saying "I care about the pain you feel" is a nice follow-up.

If you you know the baby's name, use it. If you don't know, ask "Did you name the baby?" Then, use it.

Sit with your friend while she cries, and you don't even have to say anything. It may feel awkward to you, but it's comforting to her.

If you want to offer help in the immediate weeks or months, be specific. Do not say "Let me know if you need anything." You know how women are terrible at asking for help? Take a mother who has just buried her child and multiply that by one thousand. Her world just turned inside out, her heart is splintered, it hurts to breathe, food has no flavor, and she can't see past five minutes from now. Does this sound like someone who can pick up the phone, dial a number, and articulate a need? Say "I'll call you tomorrow at 3:00 to check on you. Is that a good time?" Or, "I'll bring you dinner Friday night (and leave it on the porch if you don't want to see anybody)."

Ask her about her baby months after the death. Make a note of the date it happened and call her on any anniversary (one month, six months, one year, two years). If you can authentically say that you think about/love/miss her child, tell her that.

Acknowledge her on Mother's Day (and the father on Father's Day), even if they have no living children. Parents without living children are still parents.

Give her your time and your ears. Don't give her your opinion or premonitions for the future. Let her talk about her baby, the dreams she had for her child, the nursery she created, and the future she has lost.

Do not compare the death of your mother, sister, pet, etc. to the death of her child. This is a unique loss and should be treated as such. Unless you have experienced this kind of death, do not say you understand. People want to be heard more than they want to be understood. Unless she specifically asks you to talk about it, hearing about your pain will not help her.

Ask her how she's doing, and listen carefully to what she says. Some people don't say anything to someone who's grieving because they don't want to remind the person of their loss. You aren't. She thinks about her baby every day, and she wants you to remember her child. It hurts more to not say anything.

Do not tell her "At least you can get pregnant" or that she needs to be grateful for the other (living) children she has. This was a unique child who she loved and cherished. She lost a unique human being who can't be replaced like a pair of shoes.

Finally, be patient with her. She is in pain. She may not be able to tell you how much she needs you or what your support means to her. If you love her, you will be gentle with her. Your relationship will deepen and strengthen because of the effort you made.