Friday, March 30, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking

If you’re looking for a post where I talk about how the power of positive thinking has helped me, look away. This isn’t about the positive power of positive thinking, it’s about the negative associations of positive thinking comments—they’re pretty powerful too. I’ve heard a lot of these over the past few months, and while I understand that everyone is trying to help, you should know that these statements might work in a lot of situations, but they just don’t apply to the loss of a child.

So here are some of my favorites, and what I think when I hear them.

“Everything happens for a reason.” This is my personal favorite. I usually respond to this with a kind nod, but what I want to say (or sometimes scream) is “what possible reason should I accept for the death of my daughter?” If this is part of some great chain of events that I can’t see, I don’t care. I want my daughter back. That’s it. There is nothing that can or will happen that will make me change my mind on this. There might be a reason that I’ll see someday, but I would still always rather have her with me.

“Things will work how they are supposed to work out.” See “The Great Plan” for how I feel about this one. If this is how my life is “supposed to” work out, consider me a dissatisfied customer.

“Have faith that things will work out” or “you just need to believe.” This one gets me for multiple reasons. First, I do have faith. I believe in God, and I believe that He is good. But, I also don’t believe He controls it all (see “The Power of Prayer”). I’ve relied on faith that things will be OK multiple times in my life, and yet here I sit grieving for my child. If the only explanation I can come up with that is acceptable to me is that life isn’t fair, then it is impossible for me to have faith that things just work out. Bad things happen, and not everything works out. I’m living proof and can introduce you to lots of others to illustrate the point.

“Life (or God) will never give you more than you can handle.” Life gives us more than we can handle all of the time. Do not mistake my ability to get out of bed every morning and take care of everyday life as me “handling” what’s been handed to me. Three losses, back to back to back, are more than I can handle, and I’d guess more than most people can handle. Just because I haven’t closed up shop and completely shut down (at least not on a permanent basis) doesn’t mean that I don’t spend most of my time every day wondering when I’m going to break. I’m getting on with the business of life, but by no means does that mean I ever feel like I’m handling it.

“Be thankful for what you have.” Another one that gets me on multiple levels. Just because I mourn for my daughter and miss her every second of the day does not mean I’m not thankful for what I have. Of course I’m thankful for my husband, my family, my friends, my health, my job, and I could go on. And yes, I’m thankful for the honor of being Vivienne’s mother. But none of those make the pain of losing her less painful. I can be thankful for what I have and grieve for my daughter at the same time. It’s not as complicated as it sounds.

I know that this post probably sounds angry, and that’s because I’m feeling angry a lot these days. If you’ve said one of these things to me, I hope you don’t think this anger is directed at you. I recognize that you’re all trying to help, and in the absence of knowing what to say, we try to emphasize the positive. But this is one of those situations where there is little positive to point out. And when someone points out the positive to me, all I can see is that there is no positive. This doesn’t mean I won’t try to make something positive come from all of this—just that there is not a single thing about this journey that is inherently positive. It’s like the saying about putting lipstick on a pig—it’s still a pig. Dressing this up with positive platitudes doesn’t change what it is—a child, my child, died. The power of positive thinking can’t do a thing to change that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Life Doesn't Play Fair

Remember when we were little and if there was something we wanted and couldn’t have, our parents would tell us that “life isn’t fair”? I never knew how true that statement was.

Since we lost Vivienne, and the 2 babies after her, a lot of people have told us how unfair it all is. For a while, I accepted that at face value. But lately, it’s making me angry. It isn’t fair, and what am I supposed to do with that?

I’ve always believed that if you’re a good person, then good things happen to you. You get what you give. Karma. Whatever you want to call it. I know I’m not perfect, but I certainly can’t think of anything that I’ve done where losing my daughter is the appropriate equalizer. I try to be a good person. Turns out, that doesn’t mean that good things happen to you.

As I look at the world around me, I see how life isn’t fair all of the time. I now know so many women who have lost a child or who struggle with infertility, then I turn on the news and see how Snooki is pregnant (it pains me to even type that), or I look through the guide on my TV and see 10 back to back episodes of 16 and Pregnant. Nothing says life’s not fair quite like that. Here my husband and I are—in our 30’s, financially secure, as emotionally mature as we’re going to get, with so much love and support to give a child. And this unfair life keeps taking our children away. Meanwhile, there are people out there who have children they aren’t ready for, children they don’t even want, or some who abuse the ones they have. Life isn’t fair.

So what do I do what that fact? You can try to be a good person, be prepared before taking on something important like having a child, and do everything you’re supposed to do to make sure the baby is healthy. And it doesn’t matter. In the end, we don’t get what we give, we get what we get. There are bad people in this world that have good things happen to them, and good people who get the shaft. It’s unfair, and it sucks.

I’m really struggling with reconciling this cold hard fact. It can make you wonder why we should even try to be good and responsible. If, at the end of the day, it’s just random whether we get good or bad in return, why try? I don’t want to sound like I’ve given up on being a good person, and I’m about to start my life of selfishness and crime. But think about it—if you can try to do everything right, and it can still turn out bad, it has to make you wonder why you even try at all.

And that’s what makes me angry. I believe the world should be that you get what you give. When you are kind, you get kindness in return. When you do good things, you get some of that good in return. When you try as hard as you can to do the right thing, it works out. But that’s not how it goes. So when you’ve tried so hard, and life has knocked you down repeatedly, where do you find the motivation to try again and believe it will turn out differently? I’m feeling pretty lost on this one. I get it—life isn’t fair. But you know that other saying—life’s a bitch. I believe that one too.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I know I’ve been feeling this way since Vivienne died, but this week, it feels very much at the front of my emotions. I have spent the better part of the week just wanting to scream “I got robbed!” Everywhere I turn, I see something else that my husband and I have been robbed of.

Every morning, I go on Facebook. Inevitably, someone has posted baby pictures. I either see ones from my friends or ones that my friends have commented on, but there is always at least one. I expect that to happen—those are happy and proud parents, and they should be. They can dress their little ones up in cute clothes or OU gear to celebrate the Sweet 16. They can post their first steps, first words, and artwork. And of course they should—their lives are more precious than most people appreciate, and that should be celebrated. But every single one points out something that we’ll never get to do with Vivienne. We got robbed of all of those everyday moments and the right to show them off to the world.

A couple of days ago, I was at a work lunch. There was a conversation at the end of my table with people talking about their kids at school—their grades, who they like to play with, and what they think they’ll be when they grow up. It’s everyday parenting talk, and I got used to it a long time before I tried to have a baby. But this time, it made me think about another thing we’ll never have with Vivienne. We’ll never talk about how she’s doing at school, how she’s progressing, and what we think she’ll be like when she grows up. We were robbed of all of that promise.

At the same lunch, people told funny stories about their kids. Again, the everyday parenting talk I’ve gotten used to. But as each one told stories about their children, I was reminded that I won’t get any more stories. I have all of the Vivienne stories I’m ever going to get, and no one really wants to hear them. I know you’re probably all wanting to say “but I want to hear them!” That’s a nice thought, but imagine sitting around a table at a perfectly pleasant lunch, and I break out the story of my daughter’s birth and death. Trust me—nobody wants to hear it. We’ll never tell a funny story about Vivienne where everyone will smile and laugh. The very mention of her name makes most people sad, including me. Once again, we got robbed. Robbed of the freedom to talk freely and casually about our daughter.

I have multiple friends who are pregnant or who have had babies recently—some I’ve known since before Vivienne and some that I’ve met in the loss community since her death. As I look at the differences between the 2, and think about my recent miscarriages, I have to accept that I’ve also been robbed of ever having a normal pregnancy. I see the non loss Moms who are so excited—making plans, having baby showers, and going about their everyday lives pretty normally. And then I look at my loss Moms. Forty weeks of anxiety, terror, and worry. We don’t say things like “when the baby comes home.” We say “if I get to keep this baby.” I know it’s all worth it in the end, but it’s another thing we’ve been robbed of. We’ve been robbed of a happy, carefree, and hopeful pregnancy. I’ll never know that feeling again.

So I guess this is my scream. I GOT ROBBED! I don’t want the loss of my daughter to make me a bitter person. But it’s hard to watch the rest of the world (or so it seems) enjoy all of those things that we’ll never have with Vivienne and not feel some bitterness and anger over all the things that were stolen from  us.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I remember hearing a friend talk about losing her Mom, and the significance she saw in fireflies. Whenever she saw them, it made her feel like her Mom was close to her. After Vivienne died, I longed to have something, some symbol, that would make me feel a connection to her, like she’s sending me a message from heaven.

I thought about this a lot in the days and weeks after we lost her. Often when I did, a song that was popular at the time would come on the radio. It took me some time, but I finally took the message from the first verse.

Lord, make me a rainbow, I'll shine down on my mother
She’ll know I’m safe with You
When she stands under my colors.
Oh, and life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no,
Ain’t even grey, but she buries her baby.
The sharp knife of a short life.

It’s from the song “If I Die Young” by the band Perry. It was a pretty popular song around the time that Vivienne died, so I heard it a lot. I took my sign that this was the symbol I was looking for—that rainbows would be a message from my daughter.

I didn’t know it then, but there is special significance to the rainbow in the loss community. Children that come after loss are commonly called our “rainbows.” Someone once told me that, in mythology, rainbows represent a bridge from heaven to earth (I looked it up and it’s true). Everything I saw and heard reinforced the sign that the rainbow is a connection to my daughter.

And so it’s a symbol that I hold dear. Our Vivienne Bear ( has a rainbow on its chest. My ringtone is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It is Vivienne’s special symbol, and one that helps me feel close to her.

When I have a tough day, I’ll say “Lord, send me a rainbow,” and I have to say, He usually does. Not always in the traditional ways we would expect, but I keep my eyes and ears open for it, and I find it. Often, it’s a picture of a rainbow that someone posts on Facebook—they don’t know that it’s the sign I’m always looking for, but there it is. Sometimes, I hear it in a song. And sometimes, it just shows up somewhere unexpected. I remember being in the doctor’s office once—laying on the table for yet another exam. As I looked at the ceiling, I saw that the light made a rainbow for me to focus on—a special message from my daughter. I love each of these unexpected ways that God and Vivienne send me rainbows. My response is always the same—message received baby girl, thank you.

While I love every one of these messages from my daughter, I have to admit, I’m longing for a real rainbow. Every day, I search the sky. I know that rainbows aren’t an everyday kind of thing, which is another reason I love it. When I see them, they are special messages from Vivienne and mean so much more. Some day soon, I’ll get that real rainbow (hopefully many times over the coming years). Until then, I’ll take my messages from Vivienne however she wants to send them. Each unexpected message lets me know she’s with us. Message received baby girl, thank you!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I just finished reading a book, Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman. It’s the story of losing her 5 year old daughter in a tragic accident and how she coped with the loss. There was a line that she said a couple of times that really spoke to me and that goes through my mind over and over again. I wanted more.

Shortly after Vivienne died, someone told me “she lived her whole life.” It hurts because her whole life was 8 minutes, and she’s gone. But it also helps to think that Vivienne had a purpose, she fulfilled that purpose, and now that she has, she’s gone. And even though I can find some solace in that Vivienne lived her whole life, I wanted more.

I want to hear her cry, coo, laugh, and say her first words.

I want to watch her as she learns to roll over, crawl, and take her first steps.

I want to watch her sleep, watch her play, and watch her grow.

I want to hold her and hug her.

I want to watch her Dad hold her, read to her, and rock her to sleep.

I want to help teach her how to read, ride a bike, and do her homework.

I want just one more minute to hold her, kiss her cheeks, and tell her how much I love her.

In the end, we had 22 weeks and 1 day, and then 8 minutes with Vivienne. I’m grateful for every minute we had. But I still wanted more, more than I can even articulate.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good Days, Bad Days

Every loss parent will tell you—there are good days and there are bad days. And sometimes, there is no explanation for why a day is a good day and why one is a bad day. Some of the bad days, you can predict. The 19th of every month is hard for me—it will always signify a day where Vivienne should be 1 month older, but instead, it’s another month without her. But I think the worst ones are the bad days that you can’t predict.

Today is one of those days. There is no reason why I woke up profoundly sad or why I’m spending the entire day fighting back tears. It’s not a special day, it’s just a day. A day when I don’t know how to find the strength to keep moving. A day when I wonder whether the world will ever feel right again. I miss my baby girl every day, but on days like today, it consumes me. It’s hard for me to talk, and it feels impossible to breathe.

On these bad days, the only thing that feels right is to spend some time with my daughter. For me, this means going through her things. I sit at her hope chest, hold the box that holds her remains, and cry. Sometimes, I read to her. Sometimes, I hold the clothes we bought for her that she never got to wear. I look at her pictures and hold the only blanket I have that held her. On these bad days, all I want is to hold my daughter one more time. But, that’s not an option.

So, I deal with the bad days the only way I know how. Spend time with Vivienne the only way I can, have a good long cry, and go to bed hoping that tomorrow will be easier. It usually is—the bad days do lift. But, I know there is another one waiting for me when I least expect it.

I find the strength to keep going, although sometimes I’m not sure how. On days like today, I feel like my reserve is running out. I have a lifetime of good days and bad days ahead of me. And those bad ones that come out of nowhere will always knock the wind out of me. I can only hope for enough good days to fill up the reserve enough to survive the days like today.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Grass is Probably Purple

A couple of days after Vivienne died, Gordon and I were driving somewhere, probably to run some errand we came up with to force ourselves out of the house. I remember sitting in the car, watching other cars go by and thinking “none of these people know that our daughter just died.”  And then I started to wonder what their stories were.

As I’ve been dealing with Vivienne’s death, I’ve come to appreciate that everyone is carrying something around with them. Most of the people we see, and even some of our closest friends, are dealing with things we cannot see or understand. Everything looks fine on the outside, but we really have no idea what they are dealing with, or struggling with, on the inside. I think the saying that “the grass is always greener on the other side” is wrong. I think the grass on the other side is purple, or some other color you’d never expect. We have no idea what that person’s story is, what burden they carry around with them, or how long they’ve carried it.

I still have those moments of standing in a room of strangers thinking “none of these people know that my daughter died.” I wonder whether there are other people in the room who are having the same thought. When I see a pregnant woman or someone with an infant, I work through the jealousy and bitterness that I feel by reminding myself that she might have lost a baby too. She might be standing there thinking “everyone thinks I’m a happy new Mom, but I miss my baby,” and no one knows.

There have been countless moments over the past few months where it strikes me that I’m feeling or going through something that no one in the room knows about. In January, I had my first miscarriage, which I knew a couple of days before would be coming. I went to work that day, and I remember so clearly sitting in meetings all day thinking “no one in this room knows that I’m having a miscarriage right now.” It’s kind of a bizarre feeling to be dealing with something so big, while trying to go on with the needs of everyday life.

It’s impossible to really know what’s going on in someone’s life. We might think they are so lucky and that their grass really is greener, but no one has a perfect life. We all have something that we’re struggling with, sometimes quietly just to ourselves and sometimes out loud in a blog. But, we all have something. I remind myself of that all of the time and try to be gentler and kinder with people. When people find out what I’m going through, that’s how they usually respond. I should do the same with others, whether I know their struggle or not. I think the world would be a better place if we all recognized that everyone is dealing with something, and we were all a little kinder in helping people cope with their burdens.