Monday, May 20, 2013

Angelversary? Birthday? Anniversary?

by Kambra Malone, President/CEO of back in His Arms Again & Mommy of Gabriel Francis Malone

I’m a very private person. Not with my story of how Gabriel died but with MY feelings on his death. I keep what Shawn and I shared in these few days quiet and sacred. I have written a book. It has it all. But haven’t felt like sharing it yet. Maybe posting this blog might be my first step in being able to share a little more?

Today is May 20, 2013. It’s been eight years since Gabriel's death. I have had 7 other of these May 20th days pass already. Some of the May 20th days have been like every other day and I have felt badly that I just went about my day, always thinking of our son but not crying or overwhelmed. I found PEACE. This May 20 is a little different. Lots of memories of this day and all we went through to get our son for burial are flooding my mind.I truly think I am feeling so much pain as Gabriel was the start of something that is now my full time mission. To honor all life with the charitable organization of “Back In His Arms Again”. Even though I feel very tearful I feel very close to this little guy as he has been fast at work in heaven! And he has friends in “high” places and lots and lots of other Holy Innocents fighting the “good fight”.

For me this day is Gabriel’s BIRTHDAY. This makes many people very uncomfortable. If they had seen his tiny perfection I am quite certain that my skeptics would agree. Gabriel was perfect. The tiniest piece of GOD's miraculous work. He was made in GOD's image.

Our children are the “treasures of our hearts”. Gabriel may have been the tiniest…..but he has made the most profound impact on how we now live our lives for ETERNITY. At each Mass during the consecration we know that we are united with all I heaven. Jesus has given all of us an amazing opportunity to be with our children gone to soon. I LOVE the Mass. I LOVE the Eucharist. I am thankful for my husband who so tenderly placed our son in his casket when no one else would. I am thankful for our children who made his funeral and memory a blessed one! Most of all I am thankful that Jesus chose Shawn and I to have this baby boy who through his intersession is doing mighty things.

Happy BIRTHDAY Gabriel, your Mommy loves you!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Elephant In The Room

(Someone shared this poem with me and I really liked it!)

There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting,
so it is hard to get around it.

Yet we squeeze by with,
“How are you?” and, “I’m fine,”
and a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.

We talk about the weather;
we talk about work;
we talk about everything else—
except the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant
as we talk together.

It is constantly on our minds.
For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all, but we do not talk about
the elephant in the room.

Oh, please, say her name.
Oh, please, say “Barbara” again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about
the elephant in the room.

For if we talk about her death,
perhaps we can talk about her life.
Can I say, “Barbara” to you
and not have you look away?

For if I cannot,
then you are leaving me alone
in a room—with an elephant.

by Terry Kettering

- - - - - - -

Does anyone else really struggle with the "silence" of your lost baby's name? I feel like whenever I say the words Henry or Alex it sounds strange. It's a name that feels familiar but it sounds very foreign because I don't hear them often. I mean it really is the elephant in the room sometimes! It's become a part of who I am and especially when the loss is fresh, you know people are thinking about it when they see you yet no one really ever likes to use the name. I have always appreciated those who use it. It makes my babies seem "real". Ok I know they were real but it's nice to have that be acknowledged by other people. Hearing someone else talk about Alex or Henry is almost like pouring a healing medicine on a large wound in my heart. It does wonders for my soul!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just Give Me A Reason

I hope you'll hang in there with me through this post. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to write! Usually I have it all planned out in my head the things I want to say but today is a very emotional day and all I know is I want to write SOMETHING.

I wanted to be able to share a bit of my latest experience. I made a vow to myself that when I blog, even when I'm sharing with complete strangers, I want to be open and honest about who I am and my experiences in this journey.

A lot of people who have read my introduction know a little about my history, about Alex and Henry. What a lot of people don't know is I have had a total of five losses in my journey. I had one "chemical pregnancy" (please see my last post for my feelings on that word!) before my son Kevin was born in 2009. In 2011 we lost Alex at 14 weeks. The following January we lost another baby when I was almost six weeks. Then this past February we lost Henry just shy of 20 weeks. 

After Henry, I saw specialists. I pushed them, pleaded for answers. And I got none. Nothing in the autopsy report. Nothing in my tests. According to them, everything is in perfect working order. 

So we decide to put our trust in our wonderful doctors and in our faith and try again. And we were so amazed when we were pregnant on the very first try! We thought that was a sure sign that this one was meant to be, it happened so easily. 

Unfortunately, as I found out Monday, this was not our rainbow baby. When I was six weeks five days, we lost that baby as well.

Now I was blessed in many ways through this loss. I'd asked my OB for early blood work and an early ultrasound. When the numbers and measurements weren't coming back in agreement with my dating, I had a feeling this one was not meant to be. And the more blood work I had done the more sure of that I became. My hcg had pretty much stopped rising last week so Monday I was sent for a stat blood test and I got squeezed into an ultrasound at Maternal Fetal Medicine at Riverside. 

I met with Dr. M. again who I have to say is probably the most amazing doctor I've met. He held me hand, was very sympathetic and honest. There had been no change in the ultrasound and my hcg had fallen. He still maintains his belief that we can have another healthy pregnancy. In his words, we've had a lot of really bad, unexplainable things happen to us but there's just no mechanism, no common denominator. I've had test after test. There's just really nothing there. I very bluntly told him I'm just not sure I believe him anymore. He was ok that. He believes for me. 

I chose to have a D&C done for a lot of reasons, most of them emotional but I also do live an hour from the hospital and I had concerns about that should something happen. (and with a diagnosis of chronic bad luck, why take my chances??) and we had that done yesterday evening.

While I was waiting (and waiting and waiting) in pre-op I had my ear-buds on and one of the songs I was listening to was that new Pink song with Nate Ruess. "Just Give Me A Reason." and while I know the song is about something completely different, I found some of the lyrics speaking to me.

I'd been feeling very broken. Very defeated. I wanted a REASON. I want to know why this is happening? Four losses in a row, that's just insane! And we have all this technology and yet no one can tell me why. It gives me so much respect for just how fragile the process really is. It only takes one little thing to go wrong to end it all. In my case, this last one was almost for sure a genetic thing. We never had anything but an empty sac, no fetal pole or anything. So something went awry very early.

Anyway back to the song. I'm feeling so lost and angry and Pink starts singing in my ears.

"Just give me a reason, just a little bit's enough. Just a second we're not broken just bent and we can learn to love again."

And I thought about that a little. Hey- Pink is right! I'm not broken. I'm just bent! I can learn to trust my doctors, and trust myself. I've made it through worse, I'll make it through this, too.

"It's in the stars, it's been written in the scars on our hearts."

Yes. One of the things that helps me find peace  is knowing I'm following a path that's been laid out for me. I don't know where I'm going or why but sometimes it helps me to put my trust in that and accept that I'm not in control. I can't use willpower to stay pregnant. It's written in the stars but it's also been written in the scars on my heart. Five big ones. I'll always carry those scars with me. It's not something you ever forget and move on from. Even once you're healed, it's still there. You're never the same person. Not everyone can see these scars, not everyone even knows there are five of them. But they're there. 

Sometime over the weekend, I realized that yes, I'm still praying for a miracle that I just had wacky hcg numbers and everything would be fine. But the more rational part of me realized that wasn't likely. So I prayed for my doctors. They're the ones guiding us through this, I prayed for them to have the proper wisdom and respect. Which they did. And I prayed for more strength which I have been very blessed with. I'm still standing. I'm still fighting. It hurts like hell but I'm not giving up yet. Some may find this idea crazy but I know in my heart that I'm not done. I'm not broken, I'm just bent. 

And today I pray for all the other mamas out there who carry scars on their hearts too. And I pray that wherever you are in your journey, whether you're trying again, not ready to try again, can't try again, etc., you find peace with that. 

And I thank everyone who's been praying for us the last few days. I know there have been many of you and I truly believe they've helped us. I may not have gotten the outcome I wanted but I have enough strength to make it through this and I think at this point that's all I can really ask for. 

I may come across as so "together" and at peace. I'm not. Writing about it helps me and I've been over and over this post, editing and fixing trying to convey it in just the right way. Last Friday when I got our fourth blood test back and it had barely risen, I knew it was over. The nurse told me what to do if I was bleeding heavily over the weekend though she never actually told me the pregnancy was not viable. But I knew. I was driving home in a rain storm from Ella's class trip to the zoo when she called. I mean I guess if you're getting news like that it's better to have it raining than bright and sunny, no? 

I came home, put the kids down for a nap and I went into my room and bawled my eyes out. I cried more that day than I did the day I found out Henry had died. That's for a lot of reasons. The news about Henry sent me into a state of shock, for one. And I was fixated on a lot of things as I prepared to go to the hospital the next day.

Friday though was full of grief but also very full of disappointment and a lot of anger. This is not fair. This shouldn't be happening. I have to start all over. AGAIN. But one of the biggest things I've learned is to just go with it. I cry when I want to cry. I laugh when I feel like laughing. I don't pretend to make sense of it, each experience has been very different, it's impacted us very differently. In some ways, sadly, it's been easier because my wonderful husband and I are now familiar with navigating through the medical aspects of this. We know all about the procedures and the tests and the healing. The emotional stuff is familiar too, though we admit that it is different. 

And this time I have a wonderful circle I've met through Back in His Arms Again and even though I don't yet know them well, they've made me feel so loved and supported. This has been one of the biggest lessons for me. LET PEOPLE HELP YOU! The first three times we went through a loss we were very quiet about it. Losing Henry taught me to accept help and support when it's offered. People want to help! And there's no need for me to be Wonder Woman and have it all together. I'm allowed to accept a meal or help cleaning my house! There's no shame in that. In fact I've come to believe that it takes a bigger woman to accept she needs help than it does to try and do it all myself. And having that support around us has made me smile and feel loved. It's been uplifting at a very low time.

So thank you for allowing me to share this with you. My hope is that in writing, I can help other people. Sometimes just sharing with someone else is helpful. 

Monday, May 13, 2013


I've been writing a personal blog about our loss of Henry and this is a vent I've been meaning to write but I think this will be a better place for it!

Modern medicine has given us several different terms to "define" the loss of our baby.

Chemical Pregnancy. I really despise this term. Technically a chemical pregnancy is a pregnancy that is usually lost before your first missed period or just after up until about five weeks gestation.

Why do I loathe these two words? Because I don't understand why it isn't called a miscarriage for one. If you google it, you'll find a variety of definitions. One place will say it's a pregnancy that never attached to the uterine wall. Others say it's nothing more than a very early miscarriage. If you weren't trying to conceive it's likely you would have never even known you were pregnant. But you WERE pregnant because you got a positive on your pregnancy test, right?!?

I think my experience with a chemical pregnancy has jaded my views on this. I'd had three positive tests in two days, two different brands of tests. But then I started bleeding and went to have blood work done. My test came back negative, no pregnancy hormone detected. I asked the nurse how I could have gotten those positive tests. Her answer? "You must have taken them wrong." 


The other reason I find the term hurtful is because when you hear that you've had a chemical pregnancy what a lot of women are really hearing out of their doctor's mouth is, "Oh bless your heart, you thought you were pregnant! Nope, it was just a chemical pregnancy." 

I feel like the term implies there was never a real pregnancy to begin with and that's just not the case. As soon as you see that test turn positive, you are imaging a future with that baby. But it's not just the "idea" of the pregnancy that you've lost, it's still your baby. Don't let the term scare you away from feeling that.

Miscarriage This term covers a LOT of territory. Anything from conception up until 20 weeks is a miscarriage. And my only beef with this word is that I feel like there's a society stigma attached to it. "Oh it was just a miscarriage." as if it happens all the time, is no big deal.

The truth? Sure, it's very common. But that doesn't mean it happens to you all the time. There's no "just" about it. You lost your baby, be it 6 weeks or 19. I find this to be true especially with earlier losses. They aren't supposed to be as devastating according to our society. It makes women feel bad for grieving. "Oh it was just a miscarriage, why are you so upset?" I have heard other mothers say people have said things like that to them.

Technically, Henry was a miscarriage because he was a few days short of 20 weeks. But you will never, ever hear me refer to that as a miscarriage. Why? Because the experience was anything but. I still had to go to the hospital and be induced. I had to give birth to my baby. I had to deal with breast milk that was made for a baby who was not here. The term miscarriage doesn't seem to do that any justice.

I suppose I am comfortable referring to Alex as a miscarriage as the process was natural and happened on its own. It was a very different experience. But I still feel that the term doesn't do it justice. I still buried my baby in the cemetery. It can't be summed up in one word. 

I feel part of the  reason society doesn't "get it" is because we as mothers aren't really comfortable talking about it. And why should we when we hear things like, "It was just a miscarriage, it's not like you knew your baby!" I think if more people knew what it was really like both physically and emotionally there would be a better understanding of it. And I think a lot of it also has to do with the way our culture values life in general.

I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the medical definitions and how you feel about them or how people have responded to you. Maybe I read too much into them but I have always felt that the entire experience is very downplayed by the people around us and it makes it hard to feel like you have a lot of support around you.

In general, I think the point I'm getting at here is that losing a baby is never something that can be defined by one or two words. To a mother, it is never just a miscarriage, it is never just a chemical pregnancy. It is never just an experience. It's a devastating, life changing event. I understand that our doctors have to use words to define what's happened physically but there's no way to define that emotionally and there's no other way to really communicate to others the difference.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Mothers Day

Mothers Day can be a sore spot for women who have lost their baby. This past Sunday was Bereaved Mothers Day and of course this Sunday is "regular" Mothers Day.

I kind of understand the sentiment behind a Bereaved Mothers Day but part of me also wonders why bereaved mothers can't be celebrated with all the other mothers? The answer to that one is pretty simple actually: We live in a society that doesn't seem to want to acknowledge the mothers that don't have their babies with them. So we had to create our own special day.

I came across a wonderfully written article over at Still Standing online magazine (a wonderful place to browse!) and it started off with this quote:

"A mother is not defined by the number of children you see but by the love that she holds in her heart." ~Franchesca Cox

I can't agree more! I mean what really makes a mother? It really all boils down to loving your child in a way only a mother can. Which we can do even if our baby is not in our arms. I know many mothers who aren't blessed to have living children  that don't feel like "real" mothers because their babies have died. And they are often left out of being celebrated on Mothers Day for the same reason.

But guess what? Even if your baby did not make it, YOU ARE STILL A MOTHER! Don't ever let yourself be treated like you aren't. 

Personally, I am very lucky to have two living children but Mothers Day is very bittersweet because I don't have all of my children here with me. I get to spend the day with my wonderful and lively kids but I am also reminded of the two children that are missing. I keep this passage of scripture in my back pocket:

"If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?"  ~Matthew 18:12

 I know myself and several other mothers have been told things like, "At least you still have your living children."  I think of that verse often in response to those statements. Yes, I am very blessed to have my two living children. Obviously I am very aware of that. But it does not lessen my pain. And for the women who do not have living children, they are told to just be thankful for their husband or their family or their job or whatever this well-meaning person thinks to say. But it doesn't lessen the ache in their empty arms. We are still mothers, we will always grieve that loss. 

A friend of mine posted a wonderful statement in regards to Mothers Day:

"I think one of the issues in our culture is that we are better at celebrating mothers than we are at honoring them. A celebration is more likely to alienate those mothers who are grieving in some way, while honoring mothers is a more inclusive approach to Mothers Day. I do think celebrations are healthy but I think it would be better to remember the part where we honor people."

I really like that little insight. Celebrate vs. honor. It really is hard to celebrate a mother whose arms are missing one of her children. How do you celebrate that?!? But you can honor her certainly. 

And just for the record, Mothers Day was founded by a woman named Anna Jarvis to honor her mother Ann, who had survived the loss of seven of her children. Seven! Mothers day began in the first place to honor a bereaved mother!! 

So to all my mommy friends out there who have lost one or more of their children, I want to say to you Happy Mothers Day. You are a mother no matter how many children people see (or don't see) you out and about with. You are a mother because of the love that's in your heart.