Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And Then It Snowed....

I love snow! I love how still and quiet it is when it's snowing. I love how beautiful a fresh coat of snow is. I love how excited the kids get.

I love that since we moved here two years ago, this is my view when it snows:

Last week was a rough week. It was our first cycle trying to conceive with our new doctor all the way in Chicago. (She's a Reproductive Immunologist.) I'll spare you the details but it involves 34 pills and one injection in my abdomen a day. It's exhausting. And last week I learned that our first cycle failed. I was already feeling quite sensitive and angry that I was even in this position. Again. I'm angry that after I lost Alex, I lost Henry. And then I lost Olivia. Why? 

And then, it snowed.

You're thinking, "But Amy you love snow!"

Yes I do.

But when I looked out at the woods, I was hit with a totally, completely unexpected wave of grief. Because it snowed.

You see, when I was pregnant with Olivia, the time that I most associate with that was January. And I know we all remember January, right? Unbelievably cold weather, snow, wind....

When I think of Olivia, I think of being pregnant and bundled up on my couch in front of the fire with my husband's hand on my belly. I think of how cold I'd get just using my doppler to hear her heart beating. And when it snowed, it brought all that right back. 

It was so unexpected that I couldn't even fight it. I think there's a lot of grief that I have buried. I had a lot of fear over the future when I lost her. And the snow was my final undoing. 

At the same time, I was amazed at how something as simple as snow could be such an unexpected trigger. But I guess that's why they're unexpected triggers, right? We never see them coming. And those are always the worst ones. 

We can brace ourselves for things like holidays, angel birthdays, due dates, baby showers, etc. But things like snow...well there's just no way to see that coming the first time it happens.

And I suspect there's no way to win that battle, is there? 

I try to remember these things when the wave knocks me down:

1. We grieve because we love. 

2. The pain will get better.

3. The pain will get better.

4. The pain will get better.

It was because of that love that the next day, I pulled myself together and went outside with my son to build a snowman. After everything we've been through, I look at my two children and I wonder how in the world I was able to have them. They are clearly my two miracles. 

I'd love to hear about others' unexpected triggers and how you work through them! You never know who you might help by sharing!

Friday, October 3, 2014

I Carry Your Heart

This post is dedicated to my sweet Alex, who's third Angel Birthday is tomorrow, October 4. 

Right after I had lost Olivia earlier this year, someone told me that every mother carries fragments of the DNA of their children in their blood for the rest of her life. Apparently, as a fetus develops, some of those cells cross through the placenta and are carried around in the mother for years.  

We literally carry them in our hearts.

Which reminded me of one of my favorite poems from E.E Cummings, I Carry Your Heart.

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

We carry all of our children in our hearts, whether they're here on Earth with us or watching over us from Heaven. But I feel this especially hits home to my three Angels. 

"The root of the root, and the bud of the bud, and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide."

Life. New life- the root of the root, the bud of the bud. 

I will never forget Alex, Henry or Olivia any more than I'll forget my living children Ella and Kevin. I'll carry them all in my heart for the rest of my life. It's actually quite comforting to me that I'm carrying around their DNA, it makes me feel as if it's proof that they really existed. 

Three years ago, my life changed in a way I never thought possible. I haven't been the same since then. Losing Alex feels like the starting point of a lot of chaos and heart break in our lives. We lost Henry 16 months later, and 12 months after that we lost Olivia. 

I've heard other loss moms say that people comment on how different they seem, "She's just not the same anymore!" as if that's a bad thing.

I'm definitely not the same person I was before. There are times when I know I'm not the fun-loving person I once was. And I know that sometimes people miss that person. But I don't. 

This experience has showed me a lot about who I really am. It's led me to my faith, to my friends, and strangely, even to a greater self-confidence. 

I'm not the same person I used to be, but I'm exactly who I'm supposed to be. 

I will carry their heart in my heart forever. I will never be without it. Wherever I go, they go.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Grief Is Ugly

Grief is Ugly
By: Kambra Malone

Last week I was thinking that Gabriel’s ninth birthday was coming up. That was a fleeting thought between putting together Kieran’s First Holy Communion celebration and getting our high school kids ready for their out of town crew regatta.
Today I woke up and found a sweet message from my friend Erin Foster. Erin was wishing me a good day and remembering Gabriel…….remember Gabriel!!! A flood of tears came to me. How on earth did this sneak up on me? What kind of Mother am I?? I started my day with a FB post of “I feel entirely blessed” and am ending my day with “The hole in my heart is gaping”.
After I read Erin’s message I changed my profile pic to Gabriel’s head stone.
My personal friends know that this year 2014 has been unreal. It began with a baby shower, my husband in the hospital, my son in the hospital at the same time, my partial foot amputation, Ellie ( our daughter who just had our first grandchild) was in a terrible car accident, Brendan’s confirmation, Rowan’s birth and Kieran’s First Holy Communion all since January 1.
I left this afternoon. I went to flowerama and bought 11 carnations with a blue bow around them. Nine of the carnations for Gabriel’s ninth birthday and two extra for my friends baby’s far away that she can’ t go to their grave. The lady at the counter asked me who were the flowers for?” I normally would go into the “Oh it’s for my baby in heaven” . Not today. Today I said “ For a friend”. I didn’t feel like sharing. I was in a daze. I drove to the cemetery crying all the way. I walked out to Gabriel and Mary Claire’s grave and laid the flowers down. I noticed a shiny thing in the grass. I picked it up and it was the Holy Family medal that our son had left on their grave April 12. I took the medal and pushed it into the soil beside the grave marker. I kept crying – felt a pain I haven’t felt in Nine years. WHY? Why today?????
I don’t know. The hurt was so deep.
Grief is UGLY. It is cyclical. It never goes away. It finds new places to go. Then it’s back again. It was back today for the first time in a very LONG time. It felt like the day we found out he was dead.
Gabriel you are “Back In His Arms Again”. I deeply love you as I love all of our children and now our grandchild Rowan. Love is real. It is beautiful. I pray tomorrow I feel Love and not grief.
Happy Birthday, Gabriel Frances Malone. Your Mommy loves you so very much. xoxo

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"I'm Fine"

We've all seen the jokes floating around e-mail and Facebook about how when a woman says, "I'm fine." it really means quite the opposite. And as much as I hate to admit this, for me at least, there's some truth to that.

When I give the "I'm fine" response, it usually means I just don't want to talk about it for one reason or another.

When it comes to me talking about how I'm doing emotionally after the loss of my babies, it's the answer I give because I just honestly don't know what else to say. Most people you encounter probably don't even really want to hear the long explanation of how I'm really doing because it makes them a little uncomfortable. And sometimes I just don't even know where to begin! And there's even been a few days when I've felt like I just dared someone to ask me because I was so angry that I was really going to tell them how I was and not care.

A lot of times, for me, the response of, "I'm fine!" is how I stay strong. I'm a wife and a mother and I have jobs and responsibilities and my time to be "not fine" is very limited. So I am forced to find a way to be fine all the while thinking, "I have to be strong for my family! I have to be strong to make it through this."

But there is one very important thing I've learned this time around: there is a lot of strength in admitting that you are *not* fine. 

It takes strength to ask for, and to accept, help.
It takes strength to tell someone how you're really feeling.
It takes strength to admit to yourself that you're not always "fine". 
It takes strength to know that it's perfectly ok to not be fine all the time. 

Not being "fine" is not a weakness. And maybe if more moms going through a loss were able to openly admit on any random day that they are, in fact, not fine today, more women would feel better about not being fine. To make the new definition of "fine" in this circumstance mean that we're hurting, we're experiencing something that's unbearable and something that we'll never understand, and that it's normal and good and how we heal. We're fine. We hurt, we cry, we long, we smile, we laugh, we scream, we yell.

We're fine. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Things That Were Taken

My best friend delivered a healthy baby girl this morning. She and I have been through a lot together over the last two years, her having experienced her own pregnancy loss and infertility journey. I was feeling pretty proud of myself all day yesterday that rather than feeling sorry for myself and the loss of my own baby girl, that I was excited for her. She was finally becoming a mother to a baby that would get to come home with her! It sounds so cliche but it really is a life changing, defining moment. In fact I'm not sure there's any other joyous event in life that even compares.

But when I received a text from her at 4:30 this morning announcing the birth, suddenly I felt robbed as I realized the birth of a healthy baby is no longer my reality.

Pregnancy loss robs you of so many things. The greatest loss is of course the life of your child, but there are so many other things you lose that you never realize right away.

Sometimes you lose friends and family members who either don't acknowledge your loss as being significant, or it makes them too uncomfortable to acknowledge or talk about. I need to surround myself with people who are comfortable it the topic comes up. I need to be around people who let me acknowledge them as my children and not my "miscarriages". 

Sometimes, you lose hope and faith. Will we ever bring home a  baby again? Why has God put us on this path? Why do my babies die?

And sometimes, you lose that naive state of pregnancy being that pregnancy=baby. When we see our loved ones announce a pregnancy, there's a very confusing mix of emotions. For me personally, it's not that I'm not thrilled for them because I am. But I'm also very envious. And I'm also terrified for them. I don't want to see them experience what we've been through. I don't want them to have to understand this. But because of what we've been through, to me, pregnancy=loss. 

This morning I realized yet another thing that I've been robbed of. I don't remember that joy of having my newborn baby placed in my arms for the first time. I certainly feel joy at having my children, looking at them and loving them. But I honestly can't remember what that joy felt like when they were born  because so much has happened since then. When I think of my birth experiences, the first emotion that comes to mind is the sorrow and the pain of holding my teeny tiny babies who didn't make it. I don't remember the late night feedings as we learned to nurse, I remember the late nights of empty, aching arms in the hospital. I don't remember the nervous excitement as we brought home our baby, I remember the crushing pain as I left the hospital without my baby. When I try to remember, I only end up feeling even more robbed that I didn't get that and I'm filled with longing to have the chance to realize that again.

I feel of all the random things I've been robbed of, this one has me the most angry. The birth of my living children was so special and someday, I do think I'll be able to remember that happy feeling better as the raw pain of our losses fades. But I'm mad that for now, it's so overshadowed. 

Hope and joy. Two things that represent so much in our lives and it's so easy to lose sight of them in the midst of sorrow and pain. Stolen right out from under our hearts. 

But as the saying goes: 

Beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up.

And it's my personal belief that when you find hope, there you will also find joy.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Third Time's a Charn (Did I really just write that?)

Many people have already heard that we lost our baby, Olivia Grace, two weeks ago.

Olivia is our third angel. First came Alex at 14 weeks, then Henry at 20 weeks and now Olivia at 16 weeks. Zero answers, zero explanations. It makes me feel all the more blessed for my two living children because I honestly have no idea how I got them so easily.

Going through these past two weeks, I have been absolutely amazed and blown away by the amount of support we've received. Back in His Arms Again has an amazing community of support and I want to take some time to share that more in depth, especially as we get ready for our annual benefit on March 8!

The first time we went through a loss, as I've said before, there was very little support. We had our families who were amazing, but we were not aware that there was much of a pregnancy loss community. I felt uncomfortable with support groups because I was "only" 14 weeks (Kambra hits me in the head every time I say that because it took me a long time to allow myself to recognize that it was ok to grieve for a baby at "only" 14 weeks).

My husband and I felt very isolated in our grief. The only reason we knew it was an option to bury our baby was because my mother in law told us. I didn't get any information from the doctor that saw me because I was supposed to have a D&E two days later, and was never prepared at all for what to do if it happened at home.

Now, had I known about Back in His Arms Again, perhaps I could have spoken to someone who most definitely could have helped prepare us for our options a little better. I would have been given more emotional support from a person who'd been in my shoes, who knew the ropes of the system. Who could connect me with other women who'd been in my shoes.

Instead, we were alone in our feelings.

About a year and a half later we lost Henry, last February. I met Kambra about two weeks afterwards when a friend heard her give a Pulpit Pitch about the benefit and bought me a table. Kambra and I didn't know what was coming! We chatted for hours on the phone. It was her kind voice that was always telling me it was ok to grieve, it was ok to feel pain, to make sure I was taking care of myself physically because even though I had no baby to prove it, my body had been through a lot. However I was feeling, it was ok. 

The more we spoke the more I began to understand just how ridiculous it is how quiet the pregnancy loss concept is kept. It makes people uncomfortable. Women (and men) don't feel comfortable discussing it much outside of their loss circle or their safe people. Doctors see you and then you're done, sent on your way to navigate this mess of emotions. There's no one there to pick up the slack and step in. 

A few months later, the first Mother to Mother group met. The women in this group have become some of my closest friends. I was nervous that first meeting what we'd talk about and I wrote a list of talking points just in case, but I never needed it. We shared our stories, we shared tears, we shared laughs. It seems like whenever one woman who has had a loss meets another woman who's had a loss, that they already know each other better than some of the closest people in their lives simply because they have shared living through one of the most painful experiences life can throw at you. While every story is different, at the root, they're very much the same. The pain we feel for our babies, the loneliness we feel as we continue to grieve while others move on, the fears of the future....they're all there. 

There are also certain things you can only tell another loss mom because only a loss mom gets it. Only we can laugh at certain things or cry over the most ridiculous seeming things. 

So two weeks ago when I lost Olivia, I feel like I finally got to experience a loss the way I wish every woman experiencing a loss could. Help was all around me. Prayers, offers of help, food, help planning, hugs,, messages, phone calls.....anything and everything we needed was there. 

Even after losing two babies I never really knew that I could have a funeral for a baby of "only" 16 weeks. But this time I got to have a funeral for Olivia and it was absolutely beautiful. Schoedingers was nothing but respectful to Olivia and to us. They took great care of her and of us. I was able to have a service that was worthy of my perfect baby girl with the support of our families and of the ministry and of the other mothers I've met along the way.

And so reflecting on all this it really drives home why we're here doing what we do. No one should have to feel as alone as we did the first time we experienced a loss. It's sad that it took us three times before we got to experience it "perfectly". 

If I could, I'd hang out at hospitals just to find the families who have just received the worst news just so I could help them and let them know there's more support out there than they know, that they can do things the way they want, the way they deserve...however that may be. Loss is different for everyone and there's no one way to support someone through it except to help them go through it the way they want, the way they feel is best for them. 

My commitment to this ministry has only been more solidified. I'm excited to watch it grow over the coming years, and I'm excited to find more ways we can reach out and help. One way or another, we are going to change the experience of a loss for the better for as many people as we can. I just can't even find the words to describe what an amazing difference it has made.