Sunday, April 29, 2012

Baby Pictures

It happens all of the time, and I still haven’t gotten used to it. Hearing people ask “can I see pictures of the baby??!!” and watching new Moms excitedly take out their newest photos to show off their pride and joy. Every time it happens, I sigh and feel a pain in my heart. People ask me if I have pictures, but no one asks to see them.

These moments always make me uncomfortable. It’s not just my own loss that weighs on me, but also the impact I have on other people. I never want to ruin a new Mom’s happy moment of sharing pictures and moments of her little one—she deserves that happiness and to share it with others. At the same time, it’s so hard for me to be around when that happens, with another reminder of what we’re missing. It’s hard to step away or try to fade into the background so that she can have her time. Inevitably, I make everyone feel bad, which is not what I want. I want her to have her time—I just don’t want to be present for it.

We have every ultrasound picture and a few pictures of Vivienne after she was born, which we feel very fortunate to have. Only a handful of people have seen the pictures taken after she was born. I can’t lie—they are difficult to look at. She’s so small, and she’s bruised from the trauma of the delivery. I look at them and see my beautiful baby girl, but I know not everyone would look at them through the same lens. We had a very talented artist do a charcoal sketch from those photos, which now hangs in our home. It’s a picture I can show people and know that they’ll see my beautiful baby girl too.

One year ago yesterday, we got our very first picture of Vivienne. We were 6 weeks pregnant, and I was so scared at what we’d find because I had some bleeding the night before. We went into the doctor’s office, as nervous as we could imagine. And there she was, with a healthy heartbeat we could actually see flicker on the screen. I thought she looked like a tadpole, but I knew she was the most glorious little tadpole I had ever seen.

So, even though no one asked, I’m showing it anyway. Here’s the first picture of our pride and joy. Taken 1 year ago and 1 day ago.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Elephant in the Room

I’ve never been a very out-going person. That’s how introversion goes—I’m more on the shy side, especially when it comes to large social gatherings. I’ve always gotten a bit of anxiety about these things, and it’s only gotten worse since Vivienne died. There’s a lot more anxiety build up to social events, and it mainly comes down to 1 thing—will anyone talk about it or not.

Let’s face it, I walk into most rooms carrying a big giant elephant with me, and I always wonder if anyone will say anything about it. It creates a lot of anxiety for me, because I’m not really sure what to do about it. Should I bring it up to put people (and myself) at ease? I’ve tried that, and generally, I just make people uncomfortable. Turns out a lot of people don’t bring Vivienne up because they don’t want to, not because they don’t know how. So most of the time, I stay quiet and wait to see if they will bring it up. On occasion they do, but the general rule of thumb is that we can talk about anything else.

It’s not that I feel the need to talk about our loss all of the time—that’s not my expectation. But, I’m just not sure how to respond to small talk when I’m dealing with something so big. When people ask “how are you?” (and in the tone of saying hello, not in the tone of really wanting to know), do I respond honestly with “still crying every day!” That’s probably not going to help the conversation along. I can’t really say “I’m OK” either. I usually respond with “I’m hanging in there.” It’s the best I can come up with to not make people uncomfortable and also not lie. If it’s not “how are you?” then it’s “what’s new?” Um...daughter is still dead. Still devastated and coping. What’s new with you? You see how this can go.

I know that people worry about saying something to me—for fear of saying the wrong thing or afraid they’ll make me cry. I have to admit—I’ve heard a lot of the wrong things to say. Yes, it’s hard. But, at least I know those people are trying, and that helps. Loss Moms really differ on how they feel about this, but for me, I’d rather someone say the wrong thing with good intentions than say nothing at all. And if you’re worried about making me cry, please know that everything makes me cry—including people saying nothing at all. I recently went to a social gathering where there were people I had not seen since before Vivienne died. No one said a word to me about her. And afterwards, I went to my car and cried. It hurts both ways, but at least if someone says something, then I can feel some comfort, rather than crying alone in my car.

Sometimes, though, someone does the right thing, and it really makes an impression. I was recently at another social event and saw a friend I don’t see very often. We did the small talk, and then she apologized for never having said anything to me about Vivienne. I know it must have been hard for her to do, but I really appreciate that she did. And then she told me how much she loves us and that Vivienne will never be forgotten. She had tears in her eyes and so did I. It was so simple and so perfect. I know it wasn’t an easy conversation to have, but it meant a lot to me, and I feel closer to her because of it.

There is nothing about losing a child that is easy, and it affects every part of your life. I know that most of the people I interact with are new to this too (or at least they think they are because no one they know has talked about it before), so it isn’t easy for anyone. Losing Vivienne has made me much more aware of what other people are going through, and I make more of an effort to ask real questions to try to understand. I know that I appreciate it so much when people do that for me. I think it’s nice when you can move beyond the small talk and talk about real things, even if they are painful. We all carry some weight on our shoulders. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about the elephant in the room? If someone asked “how are you?” and we could answer honestly? My natural introversion, I’ll never get over, but if I could not have the anxiety of “will it come up or won’t it?” it would certainly make social engagements a little easier to bear.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


It sounds strange for me to write here that I feel like we’re lucky. We’ve had the worst thing I can imagine happen, so it’s hard to feel like we come out on the good side of the lucky equation, but in this way we do. Over the past 8 months, we’ve really seen what an amazing support system we have, and that makes us pretty lucky.
Let’s start with family. I’ve heard some pretty bad horror stories at how families have handled the loss of a baby. From parents who don’t count those lost children as part of their grandchildren (they say they have no grandchildren when they should say they have 1) to not recognizing important days throughout the year like holidays and their birthdays. We’ve had none of this. Vivienne has Grandparents who count her, who all have candles, photos, and a framed poem for her in their homes. On Christmas, she had a tree covered in ornaments given to her by relatives and stockings with her name on them. In my Mom’s frame of all of her grandchildren, there is a picture of Vivienne front and center. My Father in Law made a special frame for a poem that hangs in our house and theirs. And my nephew sent me a note once about how my great nieces talk about their cousin Vivienne who is an angel in heaven. She is a member of our family, and everybody sees that, which makes us pretty lucky.
Then there are our friends. Again, I’ve heard the horror stories of “friends” telling people who have lost a child that they should be over it, that their grieving is inappropriate or even gruesome, and friends who disappear because it’s just too sad, and they can’t handle it. We’ve had a little bit of that, but not very much. For the most part, people check in to see how we’re doing, tell us that they think of us and Vivienne, and that they are doing what they can to understand what we’re going through. No one has ever told me it’s time to move on or that they think how I’m managing through losing Vivienne is wrong (I’m sure there are some who think it, but they’re kind enough not to say anything). Again, that makes us pretty lucky.
And then there are the long lost friends we only see on Facebook or email. They don’t know much about our lives these days, but they still send us nice thoughts, and many have made generous donations to our March of Dimes Walk in Vivienne’s memory. It feels good to know that she’s touched the hearts of so many people.
And I can’t forget the people who came with “support” in their job description, all of the people in our support groups, both online and in person. They are the ones who understand, tell me what I’m feeling is normal, and give me hope that there are some good days ahead. When I am having a bad day (which happens more often than I like to admit), they are the ones I reach out to, and they are ALWAYS there to listen, send their good thoughts, and let me know I’m not alone. I’ve been lucky to find some really amazing women through these groups who have helped show me the way through the darkness.
But most of all, there’s my husband, who is my main source of support. You might be surprised to hear that I’ve heard horror stories about the husbands too. The ones who won’t talk about the baby or the loss, who don’t know what to do when we’re crying, or who just want to move on and leave the past in the past. Nothing could be further from the truth for us. I know he’d do anything to change what’s happened and fix my sadness, but he also respects that it can’t be fixed. He shows what an amazing Father he is everyday—protecting his daughter and her memory. He listens to me talk, holds me when I cry, listens when I get mad and vent, and understands more than anyone else can what it’s like to walk our path.
Losing Vivienne is without question the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, and I’ll continue to work my way through this for the rest of my life. But I am lucky that there are so many people around to support me in that journey. All of the kind, supportive words have meant more than I could possibly say and help me to get up every day, put one foot in front of the other, and try to move forward as best I can. And when I fall down, which I do, I know that one or more of these people will be there to help pick me back up.
If you're interested in donating to the March of Dimes March for Babies in memory of Vivienne,  you can donate at

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Baptism

Yesterday, we went to the baptism of a friend’s new son. Normally, I steer clear of anything baby related (generally, they are celebrations, and my sobbing doesn’t provide a celebratory tone), but this was a friend from a support group we attended, and I’m happy to help her celebrate her rainbow baby. As I expected, it brought me back to Vivienne’s baptism. It’s one of the few baby rituals we got to have, despite the attending clergy.

After Vivienne died, our amazing nurse Sue asked if we wanted a visit from the clergy. In no way were either of us in our right minds, but instinct took over. I said yes because we needed to have our baby baptized. It was late on a Friday night, and it never even occurred to us to call our own pastor, so they sent up the priest who was on call.

I’m sure that when he arrived, he said something about being sorry for our loss. I honestly can’t remember because what he said next stunned me so much. “I understand you want her baptized,” he said, “but we don’t do that. We don’t baptize them after they’re gone. It doesn’t matter.” He then asked to pray with us, which we let him do, and we sent him away.

I don’t think I’ll ever forgive that priest for what he did. Our own pastor (who was furious about what this priest did) told us that when he said “it doesn’t matter” he meant that it didn’t affect her going to heaven, but he agreed it was an incredibly poor choice of words. In the end, though, that priest had an opportunity to comfort grieving parents. He had the chance to reinforce our faith and that our daughter was safely with God. Instead, he chose to stand on his dogma and do the exact opposite of what I believe God would want. Did he think that God would strike him down for baptizing a dead baby? I do hope that somehow he knows that he had an opportunity to provide some peace, and instead chose to add to the pain.

There are many things that bothered me about what this priest did. I think what got to me most of all was that he would be the first of many people who would treat our daughter as less of a person because she only lived for 8 minutes. It gives the message that she was somehow less worthy of this ritual that every Christian gets. It wasn’t about whether it got her into heaven or not, it was about recognizing the meaning of her life and that she mattered.

After the priest left, our amazing nurse Sue came to my bedside and said “that’s not true. We baptize babies all of the time. I’ll get the holy water.” And a few minutes later, Vivienne was baptized by amazing nurse Sue, her Dad, and me. She mattered to us, and we wanted to do right by her.

Vivienne was baptized, and that’s what is most important. But, this experience taught me an important lesson very early on in my journey as Vivienne’s mother. It’s up to me and her Dad to make her life matter and to make sure she’s recognized as the real person she was. Just like the priest, if there are people who want to minimize her life, they’ll be sent away. And like amazing nurse Sue, the people who see how much she matters become heroes to me, and practically like family.

Friday, April 13, 2012

And So It Begins. . .

I’ve been preparing for this for a while, and here we are—the time when we’ll start to hit all of the 1 year marks for Vivienne. It all starts today. One year ago today, we found out we were pregnant.

I cannot begin to explain how painful it is to think about where we were just one year ago. All of the hope, anticipation, anxiety, and preparation. During this early time, we were so afraid we would lose her—worrying about miscarriage and test results. In cruel irony, we actually got over the miscarriage fears just a few weeks before we lost Vivienne. We feel kind of foolish to think that our greatest fear was that she would have Down’s Syndrome. How silly that seems now, and what we wouldn’t give for her to be alive and have Down’s—that seems like a dream these days.

One of the hardest things for me is that I feel like things should be getting better right now, and instead, they are getting harder. It’s been just shy of 8 months, and I was starting to feel like I had my feet back under me again. But now, I come to the time where one year ago, I had her with me, and I’m right back into the pain.

These milestones make it all so fresh again. And because so much time has passed, there isn’t much leeway for having a bad day. In the days and weeks after she died, people understood that I was having a hard time. But eight months later, I appear fully functioning (it’s all an illusion), and I hide the bad days a little better. Today is a hard bad day to try to hide, but it’s not like I can walk around announcing that a year ago, I found out I was pregnant.

So I guess this is my announcement. There are countless milestones over the coming months that will create some very painful days. I will think about a year ago and seeing her for the first time on an ultrasound, hearing her heart beat for the first time, feeling her move, finding out she’s a “she.” All happy moments that one year later are so bittersweet and make the pain of losing her all the more difficult.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


I know that there are a lot of people out there (mostly people not reading this blog) who think I’m doing fine. I smile, I laugh, I go to work, and I keep up appearances. I understand that the loss of Vivienne isn’t part of anyone else’s everyday life, except for my husband and me, and to some degree our families. So, to a lot of people, they don’t even think about it anymore when they see me. If I’m smiling and seem to be moving forward, then it just doesn’t hit the radar screen.

I sat through a meeting yesterday, where the small talk at the beginning centered on a coworker I don’t know. Apparently, this person had a child born premature, who had to have a lot of surgeries, but ultimately, the child lived. I sat and listened to people casually discuss it, then call it “tragic.” I can guarantee that no one in that room (except for maybe 1 person) even thought about how I would take this conversation. Despite the fact that every single person in that room knows that Vivienne was born premature, and she died, it didn’t enter into conscious thought for any of them. Because I sit there, smile, and participate in the work discussion, nobody remembers that I’m still a Mother grieving the loss of her child.

These days, I feel like I walk through life knowing that most of the people I encounter don’t think about how I’ve lost a child. I feel like I wear it on my sleeve 24/7 (because I feel it in my heart 24/7), but it really does go unnoticed most days. It must feel like it happened so long ago to many people. In one week, it will be 8 months. That seems like an eternity and just yesterday all at the same time. But, it certainly seems like it’s enough time that it doesn’t register for people I see on an everyday basis.

I can see it in reactions when I bring up Vivienne in conversation. In the days, weeks, and months after she died, I could bring her up or talk about my grief because it was so fresh. I’ve noticed lately that when I mention Vivienne or being sad, there is a bit of a head jerk—people will still talk about her, but it’s almost a surprise that I’ve brought it up. It wasn’t part of what they were thinking when the conversation started, and so when I bring her up, it seems to startle them a bit. To everyone’s credit, they recover and go with the flow, but I know what just happened. They didn’t necessarily forget that I lost a child, but it wasn’t even remotely on their mind while they were talking to me.

I know that people have their own lives, their own struggles, and what’s happening with Gordon and me is most important only to us. I don’t expect anyone else to spend each of their days thinking about what we’ve lost. But I also don’t want people to think that somehow enough time has passed that they no longer need to be sensitive to what happened to us. I will always grieve for Vivienne, and there will always be triggers for my pain. And mostly, I don’t want anyone to forget about Vivienne. If she were an 8 month old baby, people would remember her. Instead, she’s been gone for 8 months, and it seems so easy for people to forget. 

Monday, April 9, 2012


I’ve told the story here before about the prayer I said as I laid in my hospital bed the night Vivienne died. I told God that I would never understand why this happened, but I needed to know that my daughter would be safe. So, I prayed that He would welcome her into heaven, love her, and keep her safe until I get to see her again.

I’ve never doubted for one second that Vivienne is in heaven. I like to think that she’s there with my Dad, and he’s taking care of her until I get there (it’s a thought that makes me cry and gives me comfort at the same time). I can’t decide whether she’s a baby or a little girl in heaven—I’ve pictured her both ways.  Either way, I know that she’s safe and surrounded by loved ones.

A couple of months after Vivienne died, I read the book Heaven Is For Real. It’s the true story of a little boy, who during surgery goes to heaven, and comes back to tell his parents the story. He knew so many things from this trip that he couldn’t have known otherwise—it’s hard to read and not feel reassured that Heaven is waiting for us. I’ve never questioned whether there is a heaven, but these days, I look for any and all reassurances I can find.

In the book, there is a chapter called Two Sisters that really touched me (I hope I’m not spoiling this for anyone who hasn’t read it). The little boy, Colton, tells his mother that he has 2 sisters. Colton has 1 living sister and no idea that his mother lost a baby years earlier. He tells his mother that he met his other sister in heaven. Even though she died as a baby, she was a little girl in heaven, but she didn’t have a name because their parents never gave her one (the mother miscarried before she knew she was having a girl). It gave me comfort that I knew our little girl was up there, and that she had her name.

In one of the early support groups I went to (we both still go every month), one of the Moms talked about how she’s no longer afraid to die. When she dies, she gets to be reunited with her son—that’s a happy thing, not something to be afraid of. I think of that sentiment often. Losing Vivienne has changed my perspective on death. Don’t worry—I’m not trying to expedite the process or anything. If I’m still here, then I still have something to do, and there is purpose to my life. But when it happens, I get to be with Vivienne again. That thought not only makes me not afraid to die, it makes me kind of excited. I actually daydream about when I’ll get to go to heaven. I’m sure that sounds strange, but it is what keeps me moving and trying to be better.

So, when it’s my time, I’ll be pushing people aside to get to the pearly gates. And when I do—one of 2 things will happen. I will see my Dad holding my baby girl, and he will hand her to me. Or a little girl will run up to me and call me Mommy. Who wouldn’t be excited about that?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Longing

Through the course of writing this blog, I’ve tried to put this unimaginable loss into words. Sometimes, those words come easy—I feel them so strongly, that they practically write themselves. Other times, I really struggle. There is so much about the loss of a child that there are no words for—no words that really capture the pain, the confusion, and the complete despair of this loss. There are many emotions that have no words, and even when there are words to describe them, they just don’t feel strong enough.

It’s easier for me to explain how it feels in the really bad moments. When something triggers, and I am consumed with losing Vivienne. I cry harder than I ever thought I could. I feel like I can’t breathe. I can’t imagine how I will live with this for the rest of my life. I cannot think of anything other than how much I want to hold her and see her face. It is the lowest point I can ever imagine feeling. It’s easy to describe the feeling at the bottom of the pit, but the everyday feeling that I carry around with me is so much harder to explain.

I thought about that fact last weekend. My husband was out of town for the weekend, and I really missed him (it’s the longest we’ve been apart since Vivienne died). I felt a little lost without him and wasn’t really sure what to do with myself. But, I knew he’d be back in a couple of days, so the missing him was temporary and knowing that made it manageable. If I know how long I’m in it for, then I can count down towards the end.

I really miss Vivienne too. I feel lost without her, and I’m not really sure what to do with myself. The difference is that there is no countdown. This isn’t temporary. I’m in this for the rest of my life. There is no thought that if I can just make it through the next couple of days, then I’ll be in the clear. I miss her, and there is no end in sight.

The closest I can come to describing how this feels is longing. It’s more than just missing someone. It is missing her, knowing she’s gone, and accepting that I won’t get to see her or hold her again in my lifetime. It’s more than missing her—I long to hold her, hear her cry, and watch her grow. It is being told that you can’t have the one thing you want most and knowing that it’s what you’ll want most for the rest of your life. There is an ache that comes with missing her that I’ll never be able to explain.

Here is as close as I can get. I am always on the verge of tears. Even if I’m laughing, it wouldn’t take much to turn that to tears. I feel a constant ache—not always a full-fledged pain, but an ache that I feel deep inside of me all of the time. I feel it in physical ways—my shoulders hurt from carrying the load, or my body just feels achy like a flu is coming on. Other times, it’s just a pervasive ache that I can’t isolate, but it’s always there. My heart literally hurts. That’s not just a description—I can actually feel my broken heart, and it’s a real physical pain that I have all of the time. I never feel as though I can take a full and deep breath. Even when I try, it still feels short and like it’s stopped short of a full breath. Nothing I do makes life feel complete. I always feel like something is missing. You know that feeling when you think you should be doing something else? That’s a constant feeling for me.

I spent some time thinking these were symptoms of my early grief, and they would fade with time. It’s now coming up on 8 months since Vivienne died, and these feelings haven’t changed. They’ve softened a bit, but they are still always there. I am accepting that I will feel this longing, ache, and hurt for the rest of my life. In a way, it’s how I carry Vivienne with me. They also represent the scar from this deep hurt, a scar that people don’t see. To so many, the wound of losing her looks to be healing with time, but I carry that scar, and these feelings, with me always.