Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Return

Yes, I am still around. And I think about writing all the time but then I stop myself. I've been trying to understand why I always find an excuse not to write at night after putting the kids to bed - I am tired, I have work to get done, I want to sit on my ass and drink a beer while watching Netflix, but none of those reasons felt genuine to me. The other day, the real reason hit me. I have been avoiding writing because doing so forces me to confront my reality. And I've become really good at avoiding it.

I sometimes think that is the secret of surviving child loss - you learn how not to think about it. Because when you do, it is overwhelming and painful and just plain sucks. By ignoring it, you are able to go on with your everyday. You are able to go to work and not spend the day crying in the bathroom. You are able to spend time with your family without dwelling on the fact someone is missing. You are able to laugh when something is funny, get excited when something good happens, and look forward to the future. These things don't happen when you are constantly thinking about your dead child.

I've been doing a lot of yoga lately. It's mainly to help with my sore hips from all the running/hiking I've been doing but I've found that I've come to enjoy it for an entirely different and strange reason - savasana. If you are not familiar with the term, savasana is a pose that you do at the end of your practice in which you lie on your back with your eyes closed and you breathe and relax your body into the floor. It is typically known as the corpse pose. Usually, I find it relaxing but lately, I've found myself in uncontrollable tears and it all stems from one thing - Naya. I think about her at other time but it's all superficial. During savasana though, my brain takes me to that deep, dark place that I keep hidden. The place of realization that she is dead and never coming back.

This has made me realize that I obviously have a lot of anguish built up and I need to get to a place where I can get my emotions out again. It may hurt while doing so but my body is desperately craving the release. I can't think of a better venue then here.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Grieving with Glee

I used to be a huge fan of Glee. The first two seasons, I never missed an episode and was faithful in buying the DVD's right when they came out (this was before the show was on Netflix) so I could binge watch whenever I wanted. After my daughter died, I attempted to watch the show again but lost interest in the plot line, especially since at the time there was a lot of focus on the baby girl that Puck & Quinn gave up for adoption. It was just too hard for me to watch. I honestly have not followed the show since and have no idea what the characters have been doing since 2011. But once I heard about the tribute they planned to honor Cory Monteith's (The Quarterback), I knew it was a not-to-be-missed episode. I was not disappointed.

Interestingly, Glee decided to move focus from the subject of Finn's death and instead concentrate on the way his friend's and family were dealing with it. The episode concentrated on grieving. And boy, was I blown away by how accurately they portrayed grief. It was obviously written/directed/acted by people in the midst of the grieving process and it showed. They got it. The pain, the irrational anger, the sadness, the laughter, the terror, the complication of emotions, the fear of the future, the tears that seemed to come out of nowhere. The show did a fantastic job of taking the viewers on the grief roller coaster that the bereaved are oh so familiar with. It was quite painful yet beautiful to watch, particularly because you know the actors weren't acting. Those emotions were a true representation of how they were feeling after losing their friend.

There were many moments in the episode that portrayed the grieving process eloquently and, sadly, familiarly. In one scene, Santana gets so irrationally angry at Sue for not allowing candles at Finn's locker that she screams in her face and pushes her into a bookshelf. While I never resorted to physical violence in the early stages of grief, I remember feeling like I was a ticking time bomb who could go off at any second. I fought back the urge to yell at people, sometimes unsuccessfully, quite frequently. I realize now how hurtful and irrational that behavior is but I also know that you can't control it at that stage because it is almost impossible to think rationally when your heart is broken. Another moment that had me in tears was when Rachel said “Nobody treat me with kid gloves, OK? I don’t know what to say either.” Damn. Isn't that the truth? I know she was speaking from experience in that scene, as she is most definitely experiencing that in real life. I don't know how many times I've walked in a room and literally felt the pity pouring out of everyone. It's such a strange feeling because you know no one can help it and the have the best intentions but it is just so damn uncomfortable. It just magnifies the abnormality of an already abnormal situation and makes you feel like even more of an outcast. And honestly, it's two years later and I still don't know what to say.

The most pivotal scene of the episode is when Finn's family began packing up his room. First off, this act alone needs to be acknowledged. Packing up your child's belongings after their death is one of the hardest things that anyone ever has to do. The only reason I even did it was because we needed the room. Second, this scene focuses on Finn's family. While his friends are hurting, it is his family who is going to be affected the most by his death. Their life is forever changed and nothing will ever be normal again. I was in tears as Finn's mom said the thoughts that go through the heads of all grieving parents, “You don’t get to stop waking up. You have to keep on being a parent even though you don’t have a child anymore.” I have to wonder if a grieving parent wrote that line because it is so scarily accurate. They will always be our child and we have to wake up and face the fact that they died every single day.

Huge kudos to Glee for being brave enough to focus on the act of grief rather than the story of Finn's death. Grief is such a taboo topic in our culture and it was very comforting for those of us who have gone through it to have such a mainstream show confront the topic and show how normal it is.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two Years

Today, was the two year anniversary of Naya's death. In some ways, it feels like it was only yesterday and in others like it was decades ago. All day, I have been thinking about how different it feels from last year. How different I am. How I have grown, have learned and have changed from a year ago. 

I am not sure i can even adequately describe how heart wrenchingly awful that first year is, although I am sure if I go through my posts, I could probably put myself there again. I can remember the feeling of waking up everyday wishing I was dead. How I spent most of my time constantly searching for any little sign of her, even though I knew she was gone. That first year is very irrational. You are thinking that you have the power to bring them back, be it by the sheer force of your pain or the amount of anguish in your heart. You believe that if you somehow think the right thing or retrace your steps in the right way, you might somehow figure out a way to turn back time and make their death never happen. You spend that first year living in your head, reliving your worst nightmare over and over just in case you might be finally able to find a way to think yourself out of it. You are in such denial that you can't/don't want to conceive of the idea that life is going to continue without your child. You don't want to face that reality because of how badly it hurts. 

The second year has been much different. That feeling of tremendous despair isn't there anymore. I don't know if it was just having Rhone or the fact that I had made it through a whole year without her but I was able and ready to start living again rather than just going through the motions. I learned to love, to laugh and to feel real happiness again. And, despite the guilt, it feels good. I want to live. I want to wake up in the morning and see my children and my husband and live my life. I will always wish that she was here but I have come to a place where I realize that she is not coming back. Maybe it's acceptance or maybe it's just dealing with reality. I still search for her but it's not in the same desperate way as it was in the beginning. I search for her because it makes me smile. Thinking about her, although it brings tears to my eyes and a pain in my heart, makes me happy. It makes me feel close to her. It makes her feel real and I have learned to treasure that. Despite the fact that she is gone, Naya will always be me daughter and part of our family. I will always love her and miss her. I am thankful for all she has given me. The relationships that have grown, the extra love that I feel for my children, the beauty that I see in nature, my sense of responsibility as a citizen of the world -  the person that I am becoming is because of her and for that, I am grateful.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Keeping Busy Helps Me Forget

My little sister posted a "why you no update your blog" meme on my Facebook wall last week so I figured I should do some sort of update. I have had a busy, busy summer but in a good way. In all honestly, updating my blog has been the last thing on my mind lately. After I put Rhone to sleep and finally experience that sweet relief of "free time," I have to admit I've been using it for less than admiral purposes (mainly drinking a beer, watching television and playing Peggle, all on my bed). But I figured that I better write something to let everyone know what has been happening.

So the last time I wrote, Dan had just been laid off. Let me tell you - what a blessing in disguise! Yes, we had a hard month and paying Cobra is a bitch but he is finally out of that place and moved on to bigger and better things in a new work environment. Instead of working 70-80 hours a week, he is now home by 5:30 every night and has an actual work/life balance. Rhone loves all the new daddy time he is getting and I love seeing him while it's still light out. Thank you all for the support and positive thoughts thrown our way.

I also made a big decision this summer. I have decided that I will return to school (in the next few years) to obtain my MSW to eventually get a job as a social worker in a NICU. My goal is to attend Berkeley, so I have spent the summer making some initial preparations. I ordered my transcripts, started studying for the GRE and began volunteering at the hospital where Rhone was born. Right now, I am in Labor & Delivery and will begin in the NICU in the next few weeks. I am not doing much (stocking closets, putting together forms, doing discharges) but I actually really like it. Not that there hasn't been any tough moments. On my first day, a baby passed away and they happened to bring him in the nursery as I was getting a tour. It definitely startled me but I handled it surprisingly well and managed to ask the nurses questions about what they do for families after babies pass and if they offer any support. I am going to be involved in setting up an infant loss support group at the Hospital now, so I guess it was serendipitous that I was in that place at that particular time but still. What a freaking coincidence. I was proud of myself for holding it together at the time but I cried all of the way home. It was my first test of seeing what I am going to have to deal with and I am not sure if I passed or failed. I do know that I am probably never going to not cry on the way home after a baby dies.

Naya's birthday was on July 24. It was actually a really nice day. We had hummingbird cookies made for her and did a balloon release at the cemetery. Although it was another marker of what we have missed out on it was nice to spend the day reflecting on her. I do have to say that the good days have been more frequent than the bad but I still miss her desperately.

Dan and I also decided to visit CHLA for the first time after we attending a friend's wedding in SoCal in early August. I was incredibly anxious as we drove up to the hospital but the experience wasn't as terrifying as I thought it was going to be. While we were there, we visited with one of her nurses and walked around the healing garden and down the street towards the Ronald McDonald House so we could look up to her room. We talked about how weird it was to be there when we are in such a different place emotionally. While it was the place where she died, it is also the place where she was alive and where she was loved by so many and that brought us great comfort and hope. I am looking forward to returning this fall to present the hospital a plaque from the March of Dimes dedicated to their NICCU in her memory.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Life has a way of kicking your ass when you are down

The last few weeks have been very, very tough on us. Dan was laid off from his job with no warning two weeks and we've been pretty much spinning in a spiral since then. It's left us hurt, shocked and frankly, quite scared as to what is going to happen to us. Unemployment is pure shit and we are terrified we aren't going to be able to pay our bills soon. You think that I would have learned two years ago that life could flip you upside down in a split second but apparently that lesson had to be repeated.

Right now, we aren't sure of our next move. We live in a very small area that doesn't have a lot of options for employment, especially in the salary and skill range that Dan is in. He has been pursuing all the opportunities in the area but I don't think any of them are going to work out. We are now looking at moving and it breaks my heart.

I have lived in this area for almost 15 years (give or take). I have family here, wonderful friends, amazing co-workers and a fantastic community. My home, my work, the places I volunteer are here. It's where Ty has grown up, the place where he has gone to school for 7 years and is the only place he knows.

It's also the place where my daughter was born. It's the place where she is buried. It's the place where I have been able to heal because of the excellent support system I've had in place. Leaving here, we are forced to leave her behind and that breaks my heart into more pieces than it was before. I already can't see her anymore. Now I am not going to be able visit her.

I honestly don't know what to think or do anymore. I have definitely been thrown into a depression and my PTSD has come into play. Plus, Naya's birthday is in 12 days and I have done absolutely NOTHING. I feel so guilty but I don't have the energy. I barely have the energy to get out of bed. I am flailing. I am just so fucking tired and nothing seems to be getting better. I am not sure how much more I can take.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Love is my philosophy

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I don't know if it's due to losing Naya or just if the novelty of people sharing too much of their lives is finally wearing off but I find myself stepping further and further away from it. At first, I stayed away because I was sick of seeing babies. In my age group (the ripe old age of 32), EVERYONE is having babies. It seems like a new pregnancy announcement and/or newborn photo pops up on my Newsfeed everyday. While this doesn't send me into a crying fit anymore like it did two years ago, I still have to admit that I typically hide most of these people from my Newsfeed. I can finally handle seeing the babies (although little girls still stab me in the heart) but what is still really hard for me is seeing the blissful naivety that most people are able to have about being parents. I know it's not intentional - in fact, one of the reason's it's so bothersome is that I am jealous. After seeing your child take their last breath in your arms, you just can't go back to that naivety again. It's gone forever. It has shattered my innocence and makes it really hard for me to relate to the normal, everyday worries.

I think that's why I find so many discussions and things to do with parenting on Facebook and online so ridiculous. So many people are interested in putting a label on their parenting style and judging others that aren't doing it in the same exact way they are. To me, it just seems like a complete waste of time and energy. Parenting philosophies are like religion or politics; They are great things to believe in and practice but they should really not be discussed, let alone be used as a definition of who you are. All it's going to do is alienate you and leave you open for criticism because, like religion and politics, someone is always going to disagree. I just don't have the time or energy for the drama. Does it really matter that I choose to breastfeed my son and someone else feeds theirs formula? Or that my child ate baby food out of a jar rather than carrots that I picked and pureed from my own garden? Do my silly little parenting choices have any bearing over anyone's life outside of those of my immediate family? No. They don't. And that's why I choose not to discuss them.

It doesn't matter whether I am a crunchy mom or a traditional one. It doesn't matter whether my kid wears huggies or a cloth diaper sewn from hand. All that matters is that I love my kids and that I am doing the best I can to show them this love. That is how I parent and what defines me as a mother. Naya's death has proved that life is unpredictable and that tomorrow is never a certain. It may be morbid but maybe my parenting philosophy is to enjoy every minute I have with my kids just in case they are my last. The little shit just really does not matter, especially when you've dealt with big, life and death shit that does.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

March for Babies 2013

I can't believe it's already May 5. Where did my month of April go? Between the half-marathon, the March for Babies and a big work fundraiser, I barely had time to shower let alone write. Now with the last big event (a Kentucky Derby party for work) over and done with (and hopefully successful!), I am looking forward to the summer months and the gift of time that it brings. I can't wait to take some leisurely hikes with Rhone and Ty and just enjoy my time with my children.

I do want to rewind a little and talk about the March for Babies event on April 20. This year, we walked in Vacaville, CA. We walked not only for Naya but also for Juliet, Logan & Charlie, 3 babies that were taken entirely soon and are the children of some of my nearest and dearest Baby Loss Mommas. I know I have talked about it before but I truly have been blessed to find some amazing women in my local area that have also experienced infant loss. These ladies have saved my life and I am so thankful for their friendship everyday.

This walk was an incredible and surreal experience. It felt so good to be surrounded and supported by friends and family, all who wanted to walk and help us raise money in our baby's honor. There were many times that day that I felt like crying, not only because I was thinking of Naya but also because I felt so lucky to have so many of the people that I hold dear to my heart together in one place. I think that is one of the main reasons that I participate in the March. I like the fact that we are raising money to save babies lives but I love that the walk brings together the people I love to honor my baby girl. I don't think everyone there realized how special and loved we felt. It was amazing and we thank you for all of your love and support.

At this year's event, I was also given the honor of speaking to the crowd before the walk began. I talked about Naya, gave a little background of her story and why we decided to walk. I did choke up a bit while I was speaking but I was able to get through it without bursting into tears (growth!). I am also happy to say that when all is said and done, I believe we will have raised almost $13000! I am so proud and thankful for everyone who supports us by donating to this great organization. Can't wait to get started on fundraising and planning for next year!