Sunday, May 27, 2012

Making a Choice

Since Vivienne died, I’ve read many books about loss. I guess when you’re on a quest to find meaning and answers, you look everywhere in the hopes that you’ll find a glimmer of something. A few months ago, I read a book called Choosing to See. I remember finishing it and my husband asking me “did it help?” As with most books I’ve read, there are parts that are helpful and there are parts that aren’t. What I didn’t realize then is that maybe these messages stick with me and become important when they need to be.

The book deals with the author losing her daughter in a tragic accident. She mentions several times throughout the book about “choosing to see”—seeing messages and meaning from her daughter everywhere if she just opened herself up and chose to see them. I chalked it up to the fact that her daughter was a little older when she died (she was 5), so she had more memories to draw from. I’m learning now that I just wasn’t ready for that message when I read her book. Lately, I’ve been opening my eyes more and choosing to see, and I’m finding that Vivienne is everywhere.

I told the story of the butterfly who visited me on Mother’s Day. That was really my first moment of feeling a strong message from Vivienne. It gave me such peace and hope. Since then, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to feel that again.

I see her everywhere now. I’ll look up to the sky and see one particular cloud, and I can feel her peering over the side to look down and say hello. She’s in a ray of sunshine, a flower, and the birds chirping. I read in another loss Mom’s blog about how a breeze feels like a hug from her lost child. And now, I close my eyes and feel my daughter hug me every time a breeze goes by. I still cry because I wish the hug were real, but it’s something, and I’ll take whatever I can get.

A friend and fellow loss Mom told me a couple of weeks ago about hearing her daughter’s name. After she lost her daughter, whenever she heard a child called by the same name or saw her name somewhere, she smiled because she knew it was a message from Reese. Vivienne isn’t the most common name, so it’s not one I hear very often. Shortly after she died, we heard it once, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. We were watching the Emmy’s, and Melissa McCarthy was accepting her award. At the end of her speech, she looked at the camera and said “go to bed now Vivi” to her daughter. We both cried. Since then, I haven’t heard her name very much. But since this Mom told me how she hears her daughter’s name as messages, and since I’ve been choosing to see, I’ve seen and heard Vivienne’s name multiple times. I read it in People magazine where some semi-famous person had a daughter she named Vivienne, and I heard it on a TV show, where they said it over and over again. Each time, it made me smile.

I’ve written before about how the rainbow is Vivienne’s symbol, and how I look for rainbows everywhere. I still do, and I still hear them in songs and see pictures of them and think of Vivienne. But, I also think I was so focused on finding this rainbow to have some grand message from my daughter that I missed all of the everyday messages she was sending. But now, my eyes and ears are open, and she is sending me messages all of the time. I know that some day, she’ll send me a rainbow. I also now know that every day, she’ll send me a hug in the breeze and countless other little messages of love.  And I hope that I see each one, and she feels my love right back.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Will it ever stop?

That’s the question on my mind these days. It’s been 9 months since we lost Vivienne, which I know reads like a long time to a lot of people. I also know that it reads like such a short period of time to the people who have walked this path ahead of me. But still, it’s been 9 months, and I wonder if it will ever stop.

It is still more painful than I can describe to hear other women announce their pregnancies, seeing birth announcements, new pictures posted of the baby, and all of the cute things that your baby/child does. I want to be happy for people experiencing these blessings, but I have to admit, it’s hard. And it’s not getting any easier.

I thought with time, the bitterness would fade. I’m hopeful that it still will, because it’s not a feeling I enjoy. But I can’t imagine a time when I won’t feel bitter that I don’t get to have my daughter with me. I don’t know how it’s possible to not be bitter when so much has been taken from you.

When I was pregnant with Vivienne, it felt like the whole world was pregnant at the same time. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but it really was a baby boom at my office, and I had multiple friends pregnant at the same time. After Vivienne died, I watched each of them go on to have healthy babies. I got the messages at work or on Facebook that proudly welcomed their children into the world. I tried to take the high road and send my congratulations, which was usually (not always) met with a kind note in return. Let me tell you though, the high road is a painful place.

If you watch, you can see by my face and body language the exact moment it happens—the precise moment I feel the little dagger in my heart at someone else’s happy baby talk. Sometimes, it’s just a twitch of my face. Most of the time, I lower my head and wonder if I can will myself into the walls to remove myself from the situation. Every time someone shows an ultrasound picture, talks about being pregnant, mentions being up with a fussy or sick baby, watching her smile/laugh/roll over, pictures for every month of the baby’s life, going to the park/zoo/games, birthdays, preschool graduations. . .you get the point. The list goes on and on. And it still hurts every time.

It’s not that I don’t want good things for other people. Of course I’m happy for the good fortune of others, but I can’t help but see it as a reminder of our bad fortune. And I would never want people to stop sharing their lives—happy events should be shared. What I really wonder is will I ever be able to just be happy for those people or will there always be a twinge of bitterness to it? Will the bitterness ever stop? I don’t want to live my life as a bitter person always focused on what everyone else has that I don’t. But, it’s not like I envy someone’s house, car, or job. It’s that they get to have their child with them to raise. I will never have that with Vivienne. That’s a pretty big one.

It is hard for me to accept that the bitterness may never stop. It may always be hard for me to be truly happy for others’ happy pregnancy/baby/child moments, without having a sliver of bitterness along with it. That’s not who I want to be, but it doesn’t feel like something I can control. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I’ve had to pass a few milestones since Vivienne died. The 19th of every month is a bit like a milestone—each one representing one month further from the time I held my daughter. We passed Thanksgiving, which was difficult because of its family focus. Then we hit our due date, which began the time we thought we’d have her with us. Immediately after that was Christmas. We did everything we could to incorporate her into our Christmas traditions, as did our families. The day was hard, but it was easier because she was a part of it. But of all of the milestones we’ve passed, the hardest so far was Mother’s Day.

The day alone was actually not so bad. Gordon and I made an agreement to shut ourselves off from the world. I knew it would be too hard to be around all of the happy mothers celebrating with their living children. I didn’t go to church, where I’m all too familiar with the ritual of having the mothers stand up to be recognized. What do you do when you can neither sit nor stand? So, we stayed home for the day. We did some work in the yard where I was visited by a butterfly that sat by me while I did my work. I never doubted for a second that this was a message from my little girl in heaven—flying by to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. I made Gordon come look at the butterfly, watched it fly from plant to plant and around me, took pictures of it, and yes, I talked to it (I’m sure my neighbors think I’ve lost it). It was as close as I’ll get to my daughter paying me a visit, and it made Mother’s Day a little easier.

While I can tell you that the day of Mother’s Day wasn’t so bad, I cannot say the same for the build up to that day. I’ve heard many loss moms warn me that the build up to a big day is often worse than the actual day, and for Mother’s Day this year, that couldn’t be more true.

It started on Monday. I was in a really bad mood—no good reason why, and no explanation for it. I was just grouchy. On Tuesday, I could not stop crying. This was when I realized that Mother’s Day was affecting me more than I knew. I felt this way for the rest of the week. The week leading up to Mother’s Day felt like I’d taken a hundred steps back. I felt like I was right back to the day we lost her—the grief and the sadness felt just as raw and just as fresh. Once again, I laid in bed, crying and telling God that I couldn’t do it. I was back into the feeling of not knowing how I would ever survive losing her.

On Sunday, that feeling lifted a bit, and things have gotten a little easier each day since. But, I have to admit, I’m a bit haunted by last week. It was a reminder of how far I’ve come in the last 9 months, and how far a milestone can make me fall. Knowing that the anticipation of a day can send me right back to the weeks immediately after August 19th and that I can feel those feelings just like I did in those early days is something that was a bit unexpected. If Mother’s Day can cause those feelings, I can only imagine what her birthday will do. It’s 3 months away. That’s an anticipation that’s been building for a while, and I know it will last longer than a week.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Am I Really A Mother?

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and I’m not really sure what to do about that. I am a mother without a child, and I’ve come to realize that I sit between 2 groups—the Moms and the Non Moms. So for someone who doesn’t quite fit into the Mom group, you can see how Mother’s Day would be the most dreaded day of the year.

In a lot of ways, my husband and I operate as our non-parent friends do. It’s easy for us to make plans, we don’t have to think about getting a babysitter, our sleep isn’t disrupted by a fussy baby, and we’re not tuning into Baby Einstein or Disney Channel. Our lifestyle is that of non-parents.

But, we are parents. We have a child, she just isn’t here with us. So that makes me a Mom, right? But I’m a Mom who can’t participate in playgroups or child-rearing discussions. A Mom who can’t give parenting advice from personal experience. A Mom whose child will never call her Mom. I feel a bit like an imposter in this Mom group, like I’m a Mom by technicality only. I’m a Mom who just can’t feel like Mother’s Day is for her.

Last year, my husband gave me my first Mother’s Day card. We must have been about 8 weeks pregnant at the time, and our thinking was that it was the first of many Mother’s Days to celebrate. But this year, there will be no Mother’s Day celebration at our house. It feels like a day for the real Moms, not the ones who are technically Moms, but don’t really feel like one.

I desperately try to identify with my Mom friends because I want so much to be a member of that group. But, I never really feel like I’m allowed to. I can’t really relate to their struggles as Moms, because I don’t have them myself, and to be honest, each of their struggles sounds like a blessing to me.

Everyone tells me that I am a Mom, and if I’m being honest, it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I think because it always feels like I’m posing as a Mom, but I don’t really qualify for this label in the traditional sense. I’ve had a few precious moments where I’ve felt like a Mom, but not enough that I feel comfortable calling myself a Mother. In my daily life, I operate much like a non parent would, a grieving parent, but really a non parent. If I don’t feel much like a Mom on an everyday basis, it’s hard to consider myself one.

Mother’s Day really validates this feeling for me. I’m a Mother who can’t celebrate Mother’s Day, so what does that say about my “Mom-ness”? This Sunday, there will be no expressions of gratitude for all I do as a mother to my child. There will be no handmade drawings or crafts to receive from my daughter. No declarations of “this day is for you!” There will certainly be tears and probably a lot of feeling that I’m supposed to celebrate a holiday not intended for me. Delivering my daughter gave me the title of Mom. Losing her makes me feel like it was taken away. I can easily say that I have a daughter or that I’m Vivienne’s Mom, but if someone asked me if I am a Mom, I don’t think I’d know how to respond.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Fall

Earlier this week, I wrote about my parenting high. An entire weekend of feeling like Vivienne’s Mom, which isn’t something I get to feel very often. As the week wore on, I prepared myself for the fall from this high. I don’t get to keep doing things as Vivienne’s Mom, and so I knew the feeling would end. And yesterday, in a way that I didn’t quite expect, it happened.

I took a half day off from work to spend some time with my husband. On my way home from the office, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up our weekly grocery supply. As I drove from the office to the grocery store, I felt this overwhelming sadness. It was one of those times where you can feel the emotion sit at the top of your throat, and you’re not sure how to hold it back or even breathe. I couldn’t figure out why it was happening at that very moment—I was just driving my car to the grocery store.

And then it hit me. It was a warm and sunny day, around noon on a Friday. I was leaving work to go to the grocery store and head home. It took some time for this to seep into my consciousness, but I was having a flashback. The last time I left work for a half day Friday, on a warm and sunny day, going to the grocery store before heading home was Friday, August 19. The day Vivienne was born.

I can remember exactly what I wore that day. I can still see myself driving my car, singing songs from the radio to her and talking to her in my belly. I remember being at the grocery store and one of the women passing out samples telling me that it would be good for the baby too. I remember the pressure and bits of pain that I felt that make me want to scream at August 19th me “it’s labor, get to a hospital!”

Once I realized this was what had been building in my subconscious, it was all I could do to hold back the emotion so I could drive my car. On the surface, it’s such a silly association to make, but it was very strong for me. It stuck with me for most of the afternoon. I was repeating the last day I had with her, and to say it made me sad is an understatement. There really aren’t any words for that feeling. In reality, that was the last day I could really do anything for her directly. And yesterday served as a reminder that I couldn’t any more.

All of that just driving my car to the grocery store.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Loss Parent Parenting

I’ve written and talked a lot about how unbearably difficult it is to lose a child. Lately, I’ve been coming to terms with how difficult it is to parent a child you’ve lost. I know that must sound strange. People may recognize that I have a daughter, but they don’t see how I still want to be her Mom. I don’t struggle with a child not sleeping through the night or late night feedings (I can tell you that I’d give anything to have those). I’m not trying to discipline or teach my child right from wrong. But I still want to feel like her Mother and like I’m doing something for her. That is so hard when she’s not here.

This weekend, I got to feel like Vivienne’s Mother. It made for the best weekend I’ve had since we lost her. From start to finish, this weekend was about Vivienne and being her Mom.

Saturday, I spent with my “tribe.” It was me and my fellow Loss Moms all day long. First, coffee with a friend where we talked about our children and our struggles. That’s what Moms do, right? Not that often when your child is in heaven. After that, I went to a Mother’s Day Tea at Cornerstone of Hope (a local bereavement center where we did an Infant Loss support group/workshop for 10 weeks). It was an occasion to recognize all of us as Mothers, the special bond we share, and to remember the children we miss so much. Again, it was women at a luncheon talking about their children and their struggles. It gave me the opportunity to talk about Vivienne like any Mom would talk about her child. Later in the afternoon, I got together with a couple of other Loss Moms to have some food and watch some Friends. It sounds so simple, but it’s kind of like a playgroup of sorts, only your children get together to play in heaven while their Moms watch their shows. These are all of the things that Moms with living children do all of the time. But when your child is gone, you don’t quite fit into these Mom gatherings, unless they are with your tribe of Loss Moms. There, you’re a Mom just like everyone else.

Sunday, we did the March for Babies Walk for the March of Dimes. It was like a big event just for Vivienne. When people have a baby, there is usually a series of events for her—meeting the Grandparents, coming home from the hospital, meeting the friends, a baptism, and all of those events leading up to the first birthday. We’ve had 1 for Vivienne—her memorial. Sunday, we got to celebrate her. We all wore her special t-shirts, and took pictures of her special star. Sunday was Vivienne’s big event—a celebration of what she’s meant to all of us. And seeing how her life has touched so many people—there could be no prouder Mom moment.

Sunday afternoon, we planted her garden. We’ve been preparing for it for a while—Gordon digging up a place for it in the yard, and getting it ready to plant. Picking out the flowers and plants and deciding how we’d lay them out. And with a nice afternoon out, we decided that yesterday was the time to plant. So out we went to dig the holes, plant the flowers, then mulch and water the garden. Getting on our knees and doing the dirty work of parenting. We don’t get many chances to do that, but yesterday, we got into the mess of it and did something together for our daughter.

And now I’m struggling with how to keep that feeling. Not every weekend will have a tea, a walk, or a garden to plant. We’ll have a garden to tend to for the summer, and I can imagine it will be the most weed-free, well watered garden I’ve ever had. These are the things you have to find to be a parent to your child when your child isn’t here.