Saturday, March 10, 2012

There is no foot too small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.

Over the course of the last seven months, my husband and I have lost two pregnancies.

I have wanted to write those words for ages now, but I have struggled to find the courage- and the medium- to do so. What finally turned the tide for me? Per usual, anger. And a staunch refusal to be anything but completely open and honest with my friends. Ever the Moulin Rouge fan, I cannot exist if I do not adhere to my belief in, above all else, truth and beauty. With that said, I have been living a lie, forced to do so by a society at large made uncomfortable with mine and my husband's personal tragedies. You see, it has recently come to my attention that polite society cannot handle perinatal loss. When grandparents, parents, cousins and other "terrestrial" beings die, it is considered right and proper for those left behind to grieve. Cultures establish elaborate rituals to honor the dead; bodies are anointed and ceremonies held. But when an unborn baby dies, there are no time-honored rituals, no societally acceptable ways for the bereaved to mourn their loss. There is merely the fathomless aching that comes with the knowledge that those lives will never be; the deeply held sense of being somehow broken or incomplete; and the cold comfort of the clinician, who at best tries to offer encouragement: "You're young! And healthy! You can try again." What they and countless others fail to realize (and what all perinatal loss survivors keenly understand) is that you don't just want "a" baby- you wanted THAT baby. THOSE babies. You grieve not for a life well lived, but for the life that never was. You mourn for the birth not to be, for the negation of all the promise and excitement that comes with bringing new life into the world.

I can no longer force my grief into silence and darkness and pretend my life is all rainbows, kittens and smiles, especially not for the so-called comfort of those ill-equipped to handle such tragedy, or those rendered squirming and speechless by my insistence to talk about my very real pain. This is our life. Those were our babies. They were real to us, if only for such a short time; I will not keep silent just to politely accommodate for others. Many of my closest friends on here were already aware of our reality, and I truly can never express in words my thanks for your kindness and support. I honestly believe that if I lose friends for what some small-minded people believe to be "over-sharing," then they were never my true friends to begin with, and I am happy to cut free the dead weight. In addition, I pray they never have to experience the pain so unique to this type of loss.

One of the biggest reasons for writing this is because, when I lost my first pregnancy, I had never felt so alone in all my life. Until I started to talk about it. And soon I realized how tragically common this type of loss is, and just how many women have suffered through the death of their unborn children. A very dear friend described it as a type of sorority, a sisterhood (and brotherhood) of parents who have been dealt some of the worst that life has to offer. Not a club you would choose to be a member of, but a pretty special group of people nonetheless. And ever since, there is comfort for me in knowing I have others to whom I can turn in times of suffering, grief and remembrance. Others who can truly relate, because regardless of how supportive or sympathetic they are trying to be, I have had so many well-intentioned friends over the course of the last few months say such spectacularly stupid and unintentionally hurtful things, all for a lack of understanding.

About that anger I mentioned earlier. What really hurts those of us who have experienced perinatal loss is having to read articles (and especially comments) from those who have clearly not experienced loss and yet feel the need to judge us for how we choose to mourn. Case in point: Rick Santorum and his wife, who were recently pilloried for their decision to bring home the body of their stillborn child. Not that I remotely agree with his politics, but my blood absolutely boiled when the media attempted to question the sanity of a couple who had LOST. THEIR. CHILD., and needed a chance to bond with the baby they would never again have a chance to hold. I seethed when I read comments from so many heartless parents who can go home to hug their selfsame tactless spawn, and yet coldly pass judgement for what they believe to be "weird" and "twisted."

Likewise, I could only cry when I recently encountered an article on Gawker discussing the Duggars and how they chose to honor the loss of Jubilee Shalom, their second miscarried child. Regardless of how you feel about the Duggars and their "quiverfull" mentality, they lost a CHILD. Ignoring this completely, the monstrous author chose to cruelly mock the couple for handing out memorial cards with tender post-mortem photographs (please Google "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" if you are not already familiar) of Jubilee's tiny hands and feet, which the author referred to as "mouse-like appendages." What I fail to understand is how others who have no frame of reference are so comfortable mocking and denigrating those of us who have lost pregnancies for grieving however we see fit. If it makes you uncomfortable, then look away. That is your right as an American citizen, just as it is mine to grieve the loss of my first two children in any way that finally brings me peace and comfort.

So I would like to set the record straight. My husband and I are not objects of pity, nor do we need yours. We also do not need platitudes or empty condolences, words of encouragement or statements like "God's ways are not ours!" Frankly, the big guy and I are on the outs for the time being, and if his ways involve stealing away unborn babies, then the guy is a pretty large-scale douchecanoe that I'd rather not pray to anyways. We also don't need you to remind us that we can "try again," that we now have two (albeit tiny) "guardian angels looking out for us," or (and ESPECIALLY) "it was for the best." Really?! Best for whom?

What do we need? That's simple: a hand to hold when need be, a shoulder to cry on if available, and above all, the knowledge that you love and support us no matter what. That's all. We also want you to listen- really listen- when we want to talk about it. You get your children for a lifetime. Our first two were only with us for a very short time. As such, our desire to remember those children how we see fit should be honored and respected, not met with uncomfortable stares or attempts to quickly change the subject. If you truly love us, you will sit shiva and vigil alongside us while we try to piece together the maelstrom that was the last seven months of our lives.

Some may question my decision to share this in such a public forum. I choose to do so in a way to help others who may have experienced- or, God forbid, go on to experience- this type of loss, and who feel just as alone and ashamed of their loss as I once did about my losses. I want them to know that I am here, I am listening, and I understand. You are not alone.

Monday, August 29, 2011


How very softly you tiptoed into our world, almost silently, only a moment you stayed. But what an imprint your footsteps have left upon our hearts. -- Dorothy Ferguson

They Say There is a Reason

They say there is a reason,
They say that time will heal,
But neither time nor reason,
Will change the way I feel,
For no-one knows the heartache,
That lies behind our smiles,
No-one knows how many times,
We have broken down and cried,
We want to tell you something,
So there won't be any doubt,
You're so wonderful to think of,
But so hard to be without.


Blessed sister, beautiful one
with broken wings.
Your journey is a difficult one
that no mother should have to endure.
Your path is steep, rocky and slippery
and your tender heart is in need of gentle healing.

Breathe deeply and know that you are loved.
You are not alone,
though at times, you will feel like a
desolate island of grief
Close your eyes.
Seek the wisdom of women who have walked this well-worn path before you,
and before,
and before you yourself were born.
These beautiful ones
with eyes like yours
have shared your pain, and
weathered the storms of loss.

You are not alone (breathe in)
You will go on (breathe out)
Your wings will mend (breathe in)
You are loved (breathe out)

~ Mary Burgess

Common Sense

When someone you know loses a baby

~ Do not judge our grief reactions. Each person is an individual and will have his/her own coping skills and life experience that they bring to the loss. Each of us will deal with this grief in our own ways.

~ Grief does not have a time frame, nor does it ever really end. It is important not to have expectations that we will ever be "finished" or "get over" the death of our children.

~ The "stages and phases" of grief that you may be familiar with (denial, anger, bargaining, etc) may not be clear or even seem to apply when a child has died. Grief doesn't go away, but it does change with time. The raw pain and heartache will ease, but the love for this baby will not ever end.

~ Grieving and mourning is about REMEMBERING and finding a place for our baby in our hearts and their lives. It is NOT about forgetting.

~ We are not contagious. Don't be afraid to talk to us.

~ Remember our babies. We haven't forgotten, and we don't want you to forget, either.

~ Ask me how I am doing and understand that sometimes I won't feel like talking about it.

~ We might cry when we talk about our babies. That's because we are sad and miss our babies. Not because you asked.

~ Ask to see the baby's pictures, footprints, handprints, or other mementos. It may make you uncomfortable, but it's important that we get to share these special, treasured items and that we get to "brag" about our babies.

~ Suggestions for what to say:
I don't know what to say.
I’m sorry this has happened.
I'm sad for you.

This is awful.
How are you? (And don't take "Fine" as an answer. And then really listen to the answer.)
I am here. I want to listen.
Tell me how I can help. (Then offer specific suggestions such as doing laundry, preparing meals, caring for other children or pets, running errands, etc.)
Tell me about . . . the delivery, the time with your baby, the funeral, what you miss the most

What NOT to Say

Some of these sentiments may be comforting to YOU or you think you would find them comforting if someone said them to you. But may parents report that these types of sentiments often do not provide comfort at this time.

You’re young, you can have other babies.
Age is irrelevant. We wanted THIS baby. Even if we do go on to have other children, this baby will always be loved and missed. Babies are not replaceable. We must mourn for this baby before we can consider having another.

You need closure.
You need to move on.
You need to put this out of your mind.
Don't dwell on this.

Try not to think about it.
Think of closure as an ending point, and then remember that grief after losing a baby doesn't really ever end. Sometimes people think that the purpose of mourning is to find closure, however, in the case of perinatal loss, there is no real end.

You can have closure after completing a task such as making funeral arrangements or obtaining information about what may have caused the loss, but you don't really get closure of the love you have or the hopes and dreams for this baby.

Some people say that closure comes when you accept that you have experienced a loss and that it signifies the beginning of grief, not the end.

"Closure" implies that there is an ending point. Grief softens and eases but doesn't really end. It evolves as life changes and moves forward. Parents mourn the loss of their baby, then they continue to revisit this loss as their lives unfold and they think about what would have been and what should have been.

Often when parents are seeking "closure," they are disappointed, frustrated, or confused when they find that the grief doesn't end and the pain softens but doesn't completely go away.

We all wish the pain could end, but it is usually more helpful to allow parents to talk about how they feel, to talk about their baby, and to grief freely and without judgment rather than to impose time limits or a plan to seek closure.

God must have needed another angel up in heaven.
You have an angel in heaven.
Your baby is in heaven and feels no pain.
Your baby is in a better place.

Many parents would rather have their babies with them, so even Heaven, a perfect place with no pain and suffering, may not seem comforting at this time. This may be comforting for some parents, but many are struggling with their feelings towards God right now.

This happened for the best.
This happened for a reason.
There is a lesson to be learned.
You will be a better person because of this.
There was probably something wrong with the baby.
It's nature's way of taking care of sick babies.

It's very hard to believe that there is a reason good enough for this to happen. Parents may go on to make meaning of the loss, but most would prefer to have their babies with them rather than "learn a lesson." Well-intended explanations do not ease the pain of the loss. It is hard to apply "reason" to such a tragedy. Knowing that something was wrong does NOT mean that parents love or miss their baby any less.

Better for this to happen now, before you knew the baby.
It's better that this happened early in pregnancy or before you brought the baby home.
It could be worse. You could have been full-term.
It could be worse. It could have happened at home a few weeks later.
It could be worse. You could have died, too.
It could be worse. At least you know you can get pregnant.

Many parents have known and loved their baby from the moment of conception (or even as they imagined having a baby throughout their lives). Hearing the heartbeat, seeing ultrasounds, or feeling the baby moving around creates memories early on in pregnancy. They may have been planning for this baby for years or may have only known about him/her for a short time, but they still love this child.

When you lose a child, you lose your future, your hopes and dreams, your plans. Parental love is NOT dependent on the length of the pregnancy! It's about the attachment and bonding the parents have with this baby.

Don't be sad.
Don't cry.
Keep busy.
Don't think about it.
Calling the baby a "fetus" or "it" rather than by the baby's name.

These comments minimize the loss and making light of this life-altering event. Please remember that a baby has died, hopes and dreams have been shattered, and this type of pain cannot be ignored or easily forgotten. Every baby should be treated with dignity and respect. Each baby is his/her own person. They are not replaceable if they die.

Why didn't you call your doctor sooner?
Maybe your doctor should have found the problem sooner.
My friend's doctor didn't . . .
My doctor did . . .
Couldn't anything be done to prevent this?
Couldn't anything be done to fix this?

Parents usually feel guilty or that they are responsible for the loss even though there was nothing they could have or should have done differently. These comments add to their guilt and can also cause unnecessary mistrust or suspicion of their doctor.

If parents are angry with their doctor or wish to choose another doctor, that is certainly an option. But, not all parents do. And, if parents wish to seek a second opinion or search for another doctor, these sentiments still do not provide support or encouragement.

It is common for parents to feel angry or disappointed with their doctor or the care they received. Sometimes those feelings are temporary. Sometimes they come early on the grief journey, and sometimes they come later. It is still up to the parents to decide if any action is necessary and when/if it should happen.

Dear BB,

We hardly knew one another, but I know this much: I owe you my eternal gratitude. Thank you for being a part of my life, even if it was for such a short amount of time. Those short few days were some of the happiest of my life. You've made me a better person. You've given me something that 28 years and the best advice that money can't by could never achieve: you have put me in touch with my humanity. When you left us, I thought my world was crumbling to dust. But in the ruins stood everyone I love the most, everyone who was more than willing to pick up the pieces and walk this journey with me, even if only for a moment. You've shown me the love that so many have for us, and for that I offer only my humble gratitude.

Whenever I close my eyes I will remember you. You will never be forgotten. Your life is forever marked on our hearts, and I thank you for that blessing, even if it was so fleeting.

I love you. Goodbye.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

This is when I'll know I've made it

Hangin' by the pool with Frank and Yul

Sunday, March 1, 2009

"This is blood for blood and by the gallon. These are the old days, the bad days, the all-or-nothing days...and I'm ready for war."

"You know, if you live hard and play hard and you burn the candle at both ends, you pay the price for it. In this life, you can loose everything you love, everything that loves you. Now I don't hear as good as I used to and I forget stuff and I ain't as pretty as I used to be but Goddamn it, I'm still standing times goes by, they say 'he's washed up,' 'he's finished,' 'he's a loser,' 'he's all through.' You know what? The only one that's going to tell me when I'm through doing my thing is you people here."

Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Facts About Moi

Sark, Guernsey

1. I am incredibly blessed to have found my husband, who is the most supportive and inspiring person I have ever met, and he is single-handedly responsible for my being here today.
2. I aspire to the Maritime life, the salt air, endless sea and sky; to own a tall ship and sail the seven seas would be my greatest desire. I once came close to crewing aboard a classic 19th century tall ship, but an ex-boyfriend put the kaibash on that pretty quick. I am in possession of an ancient Islander's soul, of this I am certain.
3. Tom and I are planning the one-month Camino de Santiago, walking the Pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostella in Galicia, Spain.
4. I have much to be grateful for in my life, but a pathological incapability to properly count my blessings.
5. My younger brother is my best friend and one of the rocks in my life.
6. I want to own a vineyard in Italy or the Languedoc-Roussillon région of France some day, but I don't want the imaginary Diane Lane in Under The Tuscan Sun-type BS; I actually want to learn the art of viticulture and oenology.
7. Some of you will probably know this...but I have completely disproportionately inappropriate reactions to events in my life that frustrate, anger, upset or sadden me.
8. Labyrinth, The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride are three of my all-time favourite films, ones I can watch over and over and never grow tired of.
9. I'm still adjusting to being referred to as a "Wife" or "Mrs.", as I certainly do not feel old enough to be considered either. Heck, I jumped on the Honeymoon bed of the Bridal Suite the morning of our wedding.
10. I'm afraid of children and I don't like to hold babies because I'm convinced I will drop them.
11. I'm working on my Masters to become a high school teacher.
12. My plans to become a teacher are designed to get me a step closer to what I really want to do in life.
13. My dream is to work for the Travel Channel, Discovery Networks or National Geographic some day.
14. I want to teach in an American school in Europe.
15. I want to permanently relocate to Europe.
16. I'd like to live for at least a year in the following locations: Rome, Los Angeles, Oslo, Phoenix AZ, Reykavik, Beirut, Fiji, Miami and Montreal.
17. I want to live out the last of my days and die in Westport, Ireland.
18. I am a grammar, spelling and punctuation Nazi and find it very difficult to stand idly by when these rules are blatantly violated.
19. I am simultaneously disgusted and amused by horror films, and it's one of my favourite genres.
20. My brain is broken.
21. Sark is my favourite place on Earth that I have never been, and I'd like to include it on #16.
22. Travel is my single greatest passion in life (obviously).
23. I'd like to become a yoga teacher some day.
24. If I could snap my fingers and reappear anywhere on Earth instantly, it would be India.
25. I pretty much know everything there is to know about Greek Mythology because I spent almost all of my time as a child alone and read voraciously.