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Loss

signs of miscarriage, miscarriage symptoms, causes of miscarriage, grief, sadness, loss, miscarriage, lost baby, how to carry on after a miscarriage

I’ve realized that loss never really leaves you, not truly; not the big ones. They remain right beneath the surface, just deep enough for you to get by, to go on living in that forever changed, never the same way only the loss of someone you love more than yourself affects you. A miscarriage or losing a baby/child is different than losing anyone else.

Last night, I watched the movie Return to Zero on Netflix. I stumbled into it like a drunk falling into a wall and then I stayed there for the duration because even though it hurt when the wounds were reopened, it was familiar. The knowing washed over me like a warm surf pulling me into the undertow. Gasping for breath, the pain of drowning reminded me that I was alive.

READ ALSO: All I Can Do is Cry

I think I’ve been living in a protective state of comfortable numbness for the past 7 years. Maybe it’s where I need to stay for the rest of my life because I can’t let myself feel everything, all the time. I can’t live like the exposed nerve that my soul sometimes is. I mask it with levity. I tell myself that I’m letting go but then I see something, hear something or remember something and my dam of grief breaks wide open and it all comes flooding back. Vulnerability replaces the protective cover around my heart.

Return to Zero is a movie about a couple who loses their child in utero at 9 months from a health complication. The baby’s kidney develops a cyst and the organ bursts. The baby, thought to be completely healthy and normal, dies. No rhyme, no reason and no explanation that can ever console a grieving parent’s heart. Just immeasurable and unfathomable loss. The kind of loss that swallows you up whole. The kind of loss that makes it painful to breathe. The kind of loss that is almost not survivable.

A couple of things have happened in the past month that has really brought it all up for me again and least of all, not being that I am less than a month away from the anniversary of my own loss. I know it sounds weird to remember and mark a day of loss but when you are left with a loss this big, that no one else seems to feel as strongly as you, you feel like you have to hold on to that memory with everything that you are or your baby will disappear forever. You have to fight for it. If not, it will be as if he/she never existed and that is too much to bear so you hold on because, as a parent, you feel like it is your responsibility to that child to make sure the world knows they were here. You are the keeper of their legacy; however short lived it was.

READ ALSO: The TRUTH about Life After Miscarriage

Last month, my friend lost her full-term baby to Trisomy 13. She went through 9 months of unimaginable hurt and loneliness, culminated in the worst kind of pain. That is what losing a baby is like, you feel so alone with your anguish and emptiness. A different friend lost her baby soon after announcing. Other friends are still learning to live in the losses of their children who are gone. Yet, another friend is struggling with fertility and I keep finding myself getting angry because I am afraid that she is going to get pregnant and experience loss. I was so afraid after my loss that I never tried again but I don’t want my fear to color her experience. There’s just been a lot of things going on that have been reminding me of my own empty arms and since I had to have a hysterectomy last fall, the finality of it all has been hitting me harder than I ever could have anticipated. It’s been 7 years since my miscarriage with our third child but the weight of that loss is as heavy as it ever was.

I don’t cry every day anymore. I don’t wear my grief like an armor these days. It’s much more subdued and quiet but it is there and can be felt as strongly as it was on May 1, 2012 in my heart. There are certain things I will never forget; the minute they didn’t see the heartbeat, sitting in a waiting room full of beautiful bellies full of living babies as I sat there with my silent womb. I remember calling my husband to tell him and no words coming out of my mouth, the primal screaming and sobbing that I did alone in my car in the parking lot as my heart broke in between the doctor’s appointment and preschool pick up, the emptiness that I felt in my soul that afternoon, my 4-year-old hugging and kissing my belly telling the baby she loved him at 4  in the morning before I left to the hospital for my D&E, A Thousand Years playing on the seemingly eternal drive to the hospital, the sick child I saw at the hospital that morning and feeling sorry for her mother.

Surviving the Grief, Loss and Aftermath of Miscarriage

I’ll never forget the way I refused to go ahead with surgery until they performed one last ultrasound, the photo I made my husband snap of the ultrasound machine of our baby, the helplessness in his eyes, the loneliness that I felt as they wheeled me back to surgery as the nurses lovingly told me of their own losses, the sadness I felt when I saw their eyes fill with tears and the helplessness that I saw on my brothers’ faces when I found them waiting with my husband in the waiting room while I was in surgery. The love that I felt for each person who tried to hold my heart and protect me from the inevitable pain that was to come next.

The emptiness that emanated from my womb throughout my entire body. The endless crying and guilt. The disappointment at my body’s failure. The blame that I wholly accepted. The solitude and hatred that permeated every single thought for those coming weeks. Laying silently in stillness feeling unworthy of breath. Looking into my daughters’ eyes and seeing the confusion. Fake smiling to survive. People telling me that God has a reason. Someone asking me if I was relieved. People telling me that my baby was in a “better” place as if my arms were not good enough. Having misplaced love and anger and not knowing what to do with either. Trying to be normal for everyone else.

READ ALSO: When a Tattoo Heals Your Heart 

Celebrating my husband’s 37nd birthday, 2 days after my D&E, because I refused to let my pain make things weird. Celebrating my Godson’s communion that same weekend after sending a text to everyone not to bring up the miscarriage to me. The next weekend, going out for our 13th wedding anniversary and celebrating Mother’s Day. The next weekend, attending my 4-year-olds preschool graduation, my 6-year-old’s violin concert and a few days later throwing a party for my 5-year-old with all of our friends and family; the same party where we were going to announce our pregnancy. That Thanksgiving, the due date of what might have been, and someone asking me, “don’t you miss the pitter patter of little feet running around the house?” as my nephew played and I had to run to my room to not break down in front of a house full of people. Between all of these brave faces I was putting on for everyone else, I was crumpled up in a ball sobbing in my bed. I stayed in my room alone as much as I could. I felt like I was dying. Secretly, maybe I hoped that I was.

I’d pushed all of these feeling down. I’m scrappy and I’m good at being stoic even when I just want to give myself over to my grief. Some parts of Return to Zero felt like watching it all happen to someone else but all the same things were being said and I could relate to the hurt, the pain and the fear. My heart cracked wide open for the first time in years and all that pain resurfaced. It flooded my heart and every thought. That’s why I’m writing this post. I know that there are so many women who have lost a pregnancy, a baby or a child and it all really is the same to a mother; we’ve lost the possibility of what could have been and that changes you in ways you never expected. We are irrevocably and molecularly changed from the person we were up until the moment we experienced that loss.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

I’m damaged. I’ll never be who I was before the words, “I can’t find a heartbeat” were whispered to me in a poorly lit, sterile room on the second floor of the women’s health center by a kind woman who didn’t know what else to say as I stared back at her begging her to change her mind and take it all back. You are not alone. We might all process it differently and it might look different from the outside but on the inside, we are gutted and speechless and feeling more helpless than we’ve ever felt before.

As much as Return to Zero broke my heart, I found comfort in the fact that someone wrote an honest screenplay that so accurately portrays the realness of loss; the humanity of it all. The primal part of loss that no “I’m sorry for your loss” can ever salve. Losing a child is losing yourself in the world, becoming completely unrecognizable, and being sentenced to a lifetime of living. It’s cruel. You will survive and you will never forget. Tiny time bombs of grief will unexpectantly go off for the rest of your life and you will find yourself a broken mess at the most inopportune times but this is your heart reminding your mind not to forget. This is you living. This is you loving your baby forever and there is something beautiful in that pain; something comforting.

How do you process loss?

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Mourning Orca Mother, Tahlequah, Orca Whales, Loss, J-35, Orca mother mourns loss of newborn calf

Tahlequah, also known as J-35, is a 20-year-old female orca whale whose calf died just 30 minutes after being born. This mourning orca mother has refused to let go of her dead baby calf ever since, carrying the infant either by one fin, or pushing it through the water on her head. Today marks day 17 and this grieving mother is still carrying the body of her baby through the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The world is watching and mourning the loss with this grief-stricken Orca mother as she has swum hundreds of miles with her baby. Orca whales have a gestation period of 15 to 18 months. To feel your baby alive, growing in your body and then just as suddenly be gone is incredibly hard to process. Herself and others in her pod are in grave danger because they are neglecting themselves in tribute to this loss.

I get it. I think any mother who has ever lost a child gets it. You don’t want to let go because letting go makes it real. Being real means finality. Finality means that your baby is dead and that is a hurt too hard for any mother’s heart to bare. It is inconceivable and when you are experiencing it, you do lose sight of everything and everyone else.

READ ALSO: ALL I Can do is Cry

As much as you want the pain to go away, you want to embrace it and feel every bit of it because “it” is the only thing you have left of your baby. That pain is the placeholder of where your baby is supposed to be and some part of you never wants to let it go even when the pain is so heavy and dark that it burns your lungs to breathe. You don’t care. You don’t care if you breathe because when your baby dies, some part of you (as a mother) dies too. We feel it and it hurts beyond measure.

Tahlequah is part of an endangered pod of southern resident killer whales. There are only 75 left in the PNW. Her calf was born alive near the San Juan Islands in Washington state but died just 30 minutes later. She has since swum hundreds of miles toward British Columbia, carrying her child with her the entire way.

My heart breaks for this mother whale because I know this deep, unrelenting sadness too well. Unfortunately, too many mothers do. It has been 6 years since my baby died. I spent a month in bed sobbing and tortured. I numbed my pain with medication and solitude. I was not fit for company and I was so sad and felt such despair that I had no appetite. I had no desire to exist. All I could do was focus on what I had lost and scramble to try to hold on to it before even the clarity of the memory disappeared.

I was not logical or rational. I was grief-stricken and heartbroken like only a mother who has lost their child can be. It is a loss beyond comprehension. The pain of living in a world where your child does not is the cruelest there is. To wake up every day knowing that your child is not afforded that same luxury brings with it a guilt that one cannot begin to understand without having tasted its bitter reality for themselves.

READ ALSO: Some Things Change You Forever

Tahlequah is just doing what every single mother who has lost their baby, no matter the stage of pregnancy or life that “baby” may have been at would do, she is holding on for as long as she can because she knows that once she lets go, she will never feel that baby again. Once her baby is gone, she is gone forever.

I am glad the world is watching and empathizing with this mourning mother Orca. I am glad that this whale’s desperate actions can give words to the universal feelings of loss all grieving mothers, especially humans, feel when they lose a child. I hope the compassion spills over and the next time a mother comes into our lives who has lost her own baby, we can treat her with a little more tenderness and compassion.

We mothers who have lost our babies, we carry on. We survive. But we are not the same woman we were the day before. We are broken and we have a hurt that is eternal and can never be healed. Just because time passes and from the outside, it looks like we are ok, know that we are not and we will never be again. Our wounds leave more than our arms empty; they leave irreparable scars on our hearts. When our babies die, they take a part of us with them.

As soon as I knew that I was pregnant, I loved that baby. I love the baby I never got to hold as much as I do my two daughters who I hold every single day and I don’t think that love will ever dissipate. But where all this love lives in my soul, there is no tangible direction to guide it. It exists and yet, sometimes it feels like my third child only existed in my mind. This is why we can’t let go. We mothers keep their memories alive so that the world knows they were once here, no matter how briefly.

I think every mother who has lost a child can relate to Tahlequah on a cellular level. We wish that society could recognize how deep this loss is felt and how it changes us down to our very core. Too soon, Tahlequah will have to let go but at least she’s had these days, few as they may be. Most human moms are not privileged to have that time. We are told that our baby is dead and just as quickly, our baby is gone from our eyes, from our arms and from this world. There is no gradual time of acceptance.

Our society dictates that a dead baby is taboo. They’ve decided that it’s better for us to remove the evidence but its too fast. Our hearts can’t shift gears so quickly. I remember, quite literally, howling in pain like a wounded animal when it hit me that I had to let go of my baby. Thinking of that moment in my car, alone with my dead baby inside me, before a preschool pick-up, trying to digest it all and not die breaks my heart right now. Our culture dictated that I pull myself together and move on but I had no idea how to. I couldn’t even speak. How was I supposed to function and go on like nothing happened? How was I supposed to forget.

I know that soon Tahlequah is going to have to let her baby go. Her body will grow too weak and weary to carry on, though she will try. She may even try until her very last breath. Believe me, I get it. There were dark moments when it first happened that I wished I could just die so the pain would stop but, unlike Tahlequah, I had to carry on for my living girls. That’s what mothers do. We push through the most difficult moments of life by loving and serving others. This is not as selfless as it sounds, this is them (our living loved ones) giving us the purpose to live even when it hurts so bad we’d rather die.

Tahlequah is in a grief loop. She can’t let go but she has to. We all have to physically let go of our babies but we keep them in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember, but eventually, you are able to breathe again.

Tahlequah is every mother who has ever lost a child.

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alone, loss, life perspective

It’s been a week of life perspective and reevaluation; loss does that to you. My Aunt Erma died a week ago today. I haven’t been able to escape the name this week, it’s all over the news and every time I hear it, it’s like a cruel reminder that she’s gone. Like some cosmic joke, as if the universe thinks we’d forget.

Losing someone is never easy. Even if you prepared for it and expected it, the abrupt force of letting go hits you like a mac truck. We weren’t prepared or expecting it, to be clear. It knocks the wind out of you and leaves you feeling like a shell of a person with nothing to fill you up but more pain. In all honesty, the moments of emptiness are preferable to feeling anything at all, especially in those first hours.

We’d lost touch over the years as a by product of growing up and moving away; starting our own families. But she was still my aunt and even when we hadn’t spoken in years, she showed up when it mattered, my bridal shower, wedding and baby shower. She’s been there since my first birthday.

Even when years passed that I hadn’t seen her face, I’d cling to the memories of my childhood. I was the lone niece in a sea of nephews. I was the little girl in the family and we shared special moments, my aunt Erma and I. She was my aunt I loved her, no amount of time can change that.

I was a child, even as an adult, in our relationship. I would always be her first niece. She never intruded or forced her way in, but she was always there and now she’s not. I guess we take for granted that people won’t always be there. There won’t always be time for reconciliation and homecomings. Sometimes people die and things go unsaid. We have to live with that.

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what my uncle, cousins, and her grandchildren are going through. She was a true matriarch and loved her boys beyond anything else and it was reciprocated fully. She is gone and they remain, broken shells of who they were the day before. Fragile and empty, with pain filling up every nook and cranny of space of where she once resided.

My heart breaks for them. I know the look of loss. I’ve tasted it myself. I wanted to crawl into my own body and curl up and die. The world went on around me and it was unfathomable how people could continue to carry on with their lives when the unthinkable had just happened. But that is the way it goes. Loss is personal and profound and no two people feel it the same way.

I watched helplessly this past week as my family had to let go too soon. I saw the blank stares and confusion on the faces of those who loved her as the realization that she is no longer here, swept over them. I saw the wind almost knock them to their knees with that realization.

I learned another valuable lesson this week, funerals and mourning are for the living. When I was a child, funerals scared me to death. I hated them. The loss of a loved one, seeing those I love in such excruciating pain, seeing my relative dead in a casket but now, I know, it’s part of the letting go process. Without it, we would have no closure. Without it, the pain would be insurmountable.

We need this ceremony to let those left behind be comforted, coddled and loved to get through it. It’s hard. It can almost break you and you never fully recover from such a huge loss but you learn to survive it.

I watched my uncle and cousins ( grown men) brought to their knees from this loss. Our entire family rallied around them to lift them up with love and support because that is what family does. You put aside any petty qualms or past hurts and you just be there. Moments of normalcy began to seep through and in the next, the weight of the loss would be bearing down on all of us so heavily that we felt as if we all might be crushed by it.

It was a horrible situation but it served a purpose to remind us all just how important family is to all of us. There’s been check ins and phone calls and texts between all of us because if my aunt Erma’s death has taught us anything, it taught us that life is brief and we have to make the time to love those around us; to show them, not just think it.

You’ve heard the saying to one person you are the world? Well, while our lives may not feel as if they amount to much in the grand scheme of things…to one person, they could amount to everything. I think we take that for granted.

A life well lived and a life well loved is all any of us can hope for. The brokenness that remains behind is a testament to how we loved while we were alive.

That’s the way I survive loss, by remembering that it was a privilege to be able to love these people; to see them smile, hear them laugh, see the twinkle in their eyes when they were happy, hold their hand when they were sad. Life is fleeting and loss lingers so love so full on that it borders on crazy because there is no such thing as showing someone you love them too much.

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

Five years ago this morning, I broke the news of my miscarriage to you in a blog post, as I was undergoing my D & E. It was the only way that I could process any of it. It was the only way that I could carry on and your support meant everything to me but every day since, I’ve had to live alone with that loss like we all do. Try to make sense of something so senseless.

Recently, I did something that surprised even me. I shouldn’t have looked. Until, I saw it, in person, in the flesh, it wasn’t “real”. It was just this terrible thing that happened to me five years ago. It was the bill I paid for what is referred to by the medical billing department as a “missed abortion”. It was a child I will never hold. It is the faint whisper of sadness that lingers forever and leaves me melancholy just around the edges. It wasn’t real in the way that you could see it with your own eyes.

But I’ve seen it now and I can’t unsee it.

Last month, we took the girls to Chicago for Spring break. It’s my hometown and the girls have been many times but they’ve never done the touristy things so we took them to some museums and the zoo. It was a fantastic trip.

Then, I saw something that I’ve seen before but with fresh eyes and a heart that’s survived a miscarriage.

As we entered the exhibit, one I’d seen before, I suddenly felt anxious. Like I needed to know. I was borderline obsessive and I couldn’t control myself. No one noticed what I was doing but I think the Big Guy caught a glimpse of the desperation in my eyes as I walked up to the dial upon entering the Your Beginning exhibit and turned it to the first trimester; I wanted to pinpoint specifically the 4th day of the 11th week. What could he do?

grief, loss, anniversary, parenting, miscarriage

 

The exhibit was different than before. It was completely in black, darkness was everywhere and only the fetuses were lit up as if my very soul had put this exhibit together. It is somber. I tried not to do it. You’re not supposed to do it. You’re supposed to carry on. Push it down and pretend it never happened. You’re supposed to move on. Go on living as if your entire life is not tinged by the hole in your heart. 

I didn’t want to make a spectacle with my mom, my sister, my daughters and my husband there. I didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole of grief facing anger and sadness head on but I had to know, so I turned the dial.

Such a little thing and to anyone who didn’t know or even just wasn’t paying attention, this was naturally inquisitive behavior. Only I never twisted the dial to progress to the second trimester. Instead, I left it frozen in time, suspended in disbelief, as is my daily existence since that day 5 years ago.

I try not to overthink it or linger too long in my loss. The emotional time bombs are less and less frequent but I remember every single day. I have two children but I am the mother of three but most people don’t know that.

It’s not like I wear a t-shirt that says so. It’s not like I’m marked in any way but on the inside, I am scarred. I don’t howl like an injured animal as I did on that day or fall apart anymore; so silently I continue on, remembering but not making too big of a deal about it.

Pregnancy loss is so common that some people believe it’s almost normal. I could never subscribe to that way of thinking because for me it was profound. For me, losing my pregnancy changed me forever. But still, after a while, it feels like it happened to someone else and you learn to live with it. It feels like a wound that’s healed and the scar has faded and you hide it beneath your clothes so no one has to look at it or think about it or feel sorry for you ever again.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

But you want to feel it. The pain makes it real. It reminds you that it happened. The pain is the only thing that proves your baby was here at all. So, I looked and now, I can never forget.

The scarred wound of my miscarriage has been ripped wide open.

On the morning of my D & E, I frantically demanded that they perform another ultrasound. In complete desperation, I refused surgery without one more ultrasound. I was desperate for rescue. I needed this to all be a mistake. I needed my baby to be alive.

But when they did the ultrasound, there in black and white, the perfect baby with absolutely no heartbeat. He looked like he was sleeping. Like a little astronaut exploring the space of my uterus and that was the last thing I saw before my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. I broke, just before they wheeled me into the operating room and I’ve detached myself as much as I can since.

My heart still aches but it’s in survival mode. But on that day in April at the Museum of Science and Industry, I purposefully opened my wound. The pain makes me feel closer to my baby. I walked into the exhibit and I slowly made my way to the 11 wks. Fetus. Yes, the exhibit has fetuses from conception until 40 weeks in formaldehyde. Then, I saw it, the closest thing to my reality; 11-weks and 4 days and 11-weeks and 6-days.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

I felt the wind get knocked out of me as it has been almost every time I think of what will never be. My eyes began to go blurry and the room began to spin. It was hard to breathe. There it was; bigger than I’d thought; a fully formed person; with 10- fingers and 10-toes and ears and a tiny little mouth and eyes. It wasn’t a “pregnancy” that I lost, it was a person.

grief, loss, parenting, miscarriage, anniversary

 

I wanted to run away and howl, like I did in my car on that day 5 years ago. But I was frozen and trying to digest the truth. I couldn’t speak. I only lingered. Truthfully, part of me never wanted to leave because it was like seeing my baby for the first time. I know it wasn’t my baby but it was what my baby would have looked like could I have seen him; touched him; held him in my arms.

My miscarriage robbed me of all of that.

No one said a word. I was like thin glass in an earthquake and it was taking everything inside me to not collapse and sob like a baby on the floor. My legs were shaky. I could feel myself getting wobbly. It hurt reopening that wound but it was something I needed to do. In some small way, it gave me closure just knowing/seeing what was. It made him real and less than a memory cloaked in sadness and emptiness.

On this day, I forgive myself and give myself over to the grief. I get no birthdays to celebrate with my third baby but I will never forget he existed, if only briefly. Every year on the 1st of May, for the rest of my life, I will be alone with my grief and allow myself to remember the worst day of my life because it’s the only tangible memory I have of my third child.

Today, I am frail and vulnerable and my heart is heavy because my arms are empty and my house is filled with the laughter of one less than it is supposed to be and I can never forget any of that.

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grief,loss, parenting, miscarriage

Last night, I dreamt about a baby. A tiny, baby boy who perched his little bobbling head atop my shoulder right in that perfect cradle made just for babies between my collar bone and my ear. Then his tiny head would wobble and bob and little lips would fall on my flesh like kisses from heaven.

I woke up this morning feeling happy with my visitation from the sweet baby boy in my dreams. Then, I realized that it’s November 24th and it wasn’t just any baby, it was our baby. The one who should be turning 4-years-old today. Instead of celebrating together, I’ll be choking down tears and turkey while he (that pregnancy just felt completely different than either pregnancy with my girls so I assume it was a boy), my sweet Declan Wayne (that would have been his name…in my heart it already was) will be missing from our table and our lives.

It’s been 4 years and I still can’t feel the loss any less. Only now, it seems my sadness is turning to bitterness and anger. It took 4 years but all I keep asking God is why? Why did you take my baby? Why must I survive this?

There are so many unwanted pregnancies and babies, so many children born into families where they are mistreated and unloved and all we wanted to do was love our baby. All I wanted to do was hold him in my arms, even just once. It wouldn’t have been enough but it would have given me closure. Instead, I live my life like an open wound that never closes; vulnerable to all of existence. I need some kind of closure, some tangible marking that you were here, so I am writing you this letter.

Dear Declan,

I wish you were here. More than anything in this world, I wish that I could hold you in my arms and feel your little heart beat against mine. I wish I could see your sisters love on you and fawn over you like big sisters do. I wish I could see the pride in your dad’s eyes when you two connected over something boys do. I wish there was a little Big Guy in the world.

I wish you were here to have booboos kissed and tears wiped. I wish you were here to smile lovingly at your sisters when they had a long day at ballet or a hard day at school. I wish you were here to make us smile and giggle as only little boys can do. I wish you were here for me to see grow up.

I wish you were here to love because you see each time I got pregnant, I fell deep in love and my heart grew to accommodate that enormous love. Only now, who am I supposed to give all that extra love to? You made me better before you were ever here.

I won’t talk about the day I lost you or how my entire world crashed down on me. I won’t talk about how all I wanted to do was be with you, to stay with you forever because if I do, I’ll start to cry. I’ll never forget you, my sweet boy, and you will always be in my heart. That’s where I carry you. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say it once more and every single day for the rest of my life, I wish you were here.

Forever yours, Mommy

I know it’s Thanksgiving and I am thankful for all that I have but it’s also what should have been the 4th birthday of the baby that I’ll never get to hold. So while I am thankful for all that I have, including those few short precious months of pregnancy with my third baby, I am still sad beyond belief that I will never get to celebrate his life with cake and ice cream surrounded by family and friends.

I will never see him play soccer or go to prom, get married and have children of his own and every November 24th, I will be just a little melancholy around the edges knowing that one child is missing from our table and from our life. I don’t think that sad emptiness ever goes away and to tell the truth, I’m not sure that I want it to because it is the one reminder that I have that he was ever here.

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no air, loss, monsignor

Sometimes I forget that I live in a world full of triggers. Sometimes I forget just how terrible reality can be. How sad and empty the world is without certain people and then something happens and it’s like life shakes me hard to remind me just how fragile life is. I think this is what keeps me human and humble.

Nothing like a swift reminder that there are no guarantees. People die. People leave. Life hurts and that is the reality. Even when someone seems like they have it all, devastation can be waiting right around the corner. That’s the real reason you should never envy anyone because you never really know what they are going through. The worst part is that life is so random and we have absolutely no control of it, not really.

I guess I’m feeling a little discombobulated lately thanks to to recent losses. Last week we lost someone close to our family and now, he’s just gone. Not here. Someplace else. No longer here for guidance. What once was a crucial thread in the tapestry of our life has become completely unraveled and been removed. He’s gone and we just have to learn to live in that new reality. It’s shocking because it was so unexpected but then we began to digest it, as we do, and navigate life in our new reality minus one.

Then last night, I found out that someone who was a huge part of my childhood died. It’s silly, really. He’s a celebrity. We’ve never met but I felt a connection to my dad through him and his music. He’s from the same part of Mexico as my dad. He was a year younger than my dad. I grew up listening to him in the background of my life’s soundtrack. I passed his music along to my children as a part of my own father’s legacy. He’s always been there and now, he’s not.

This sent me down a rabbit hole of sadness. My dad is in Mexico right now. I haven’t seen him in 8 months. Juan Gabriel has always reminded me of time with my dad. This reminded me of my dad’s younger brother, my favorite uncle, Narciso. He’s dead. He was murdered when I was 16. Which reminded me of my great uncle, Ramon, he died when I was 13. He was like a Grandpa to me. I was his favorite. This made me think of the baby I lost and how different my life would look if these people were alive. Now, I’m in a hole seeing nothing but darkness asking myself, how am I even breathing in this world with no air?

You know, each time someone I love dies I try to convince myself that they are in a better place. I tell myself that they are together and one day I will see them again. That’s how I get through it. I tell myself. I convince myself that they are better off, even if my heart is breaking into pieces. But what if they aren’t? What if when we die, that’s it?

I hope not. I hate to think that death is the end for the people I loved so dearly; good people who did good in the world, if nothing else than love me; care in a world that so often doesn’t.

I thought I was okay. Then I dropped the girls off at school this morning and saw the reader board. There it was, our Monsignor’s name followed by the time for visitation, vigil and tomorrow’s funeral time. Then a wave of sadness hit me with the realization that I will never see his smile again. My children are going to say goodbye at a private visitation this morning with their classes. I hate that I can’t be there to hold their hand for this. I hate that they have to say goodbye to someone they love at such a young age.

Tomorrow we say our final goodbye. This morning, I’m feeling fragile thinking of all the loss realizing that when you love fully, you live surrounded by triggers and reminders of what could have been and what was. In moments like these, it’s hard not to go down the rabbit hole and feel sorry for yourself but that’s not what they, these dearly departed of ours, would want. It’s not what I’d want. So, in a couple minutes, I’m going to wipe away these tears and live in this moment because even though sometimes it feels like there is no air…there is. We live surrounded by it.

So now, I inhale and I exhale and I repeat until it feels natural again. I keep living and enjoying my life as fully as possible because those people I’ve lost would accept no less. And the cold hard truth is that we only have one life and it’s really short. We have to make it count. Life is a full contact sport and none of us survive in the end.

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There are people who come into our lives and make it better, people who make you want to smile. They might not do anything in particularly special but to you those simple actions; a kind word, a crooked smile or a hand and heart of support make them everything to you. These people matter and when they are gone, the space is empty and the emptiness left in their spot is felt. I’ve known this emptiness: when I lost my uncle Narciso, when I lost my uncle Ramon and when I lost my third pregnancy.

Yesterday, our beloved Monsignor suddenly passed away in his sleep. He had the flu and then, he was gone. We’re all in shock. We’re all in mourning. We don’t understand and it’s hard to accept, as it always is.

You see, he was more than just the leader of our parish, he was like everyone’s favorite Grandfather. He was a genuinely kind man with a smile that put you at ease and made you feel like everything was going to be okay. His voice was comforting and he carried himself in a way that was confident yet humble. He was all of this and more but the thing that I adored about this man the most was the way he loved the children. It was a genuine adoration and fully reciprocated by every single child who attended our school in the past 30 years.

My girls go to Catholic school. I was raised in the Catholic church. Priests have always been a part of my life, my family’s life but never on this level. Growing up, our father was someone who we saw on Sundays. Growing up, the Father of our church was on one level and we were on another. It was not a human relationship, it was more of leader and worshipers. Nothing like our relationship with Monsignor.

My children saw Monsignor almost daily. He was the living, breathing heart of the school. All the students were his children. He’d been at the parish and the school for 30 years, so even the parents were like his children. Most have known them since they were small children and attended the school.

He had a special way of talking to children and adults alike that made them feel special and important. When he did the children’s mass, he always got down on their level and talked to them like they were people. He always listened to what they had to say. He never took himself too seriously.

When I joined the school board a couple years ago, I got to know him on a different level; on a human level and I have to say, I loved him for his humanity. I loved that he was openly fallible and that behind closed doors he could crack jokes and give us a hard time, just like any dad would do. But the thing I will never forget is his smile; that kind and soothing smile that put you at ease and made you feel like no matter what you did wrong, God would forgive you and Monsignor wanted you to know it was all going to be okay. Words cannot convey exactly what I am feeling at the loss of this man, all I know is that there is a hole in my heart where he used to be.

My daughters are gutted. The entire parish family is mourning and it feels like nothing is quite right without him here. He was retiring at the end of this school year but he said that he wanted to stay near his “family”, us, his children, and so he had bought a condominium in the neighborhood behind the school just so he could be near us always and still visit and now he’s dead and all we have left are the memories of him.

We’ve been talking about Monsignor a lot the last couple of days and sharing stories about what we loved the most about him. It’s hard to believe he won’t be giving mass again. He won’t be greeting us with his kind smile and gentle eyes. He won’t be sending us into the world with his reassurance and fatherly love anymore but he will always be in our hearts.

I’d like to believe that, if there is a heaven, he’s there with my uncles having a good time and keeping watch over the baby I never got to hold and one day, I’ll get to see them all again.

Until then, I will miss his smile.

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miscarriage, grief, loss, pregnancy after miscarriage

Yesterday, I saw that one of my friends has been posting articles about miscarriage on her Facebook page. Then, I noticed there were more instances where she had shared about this topic. She never said she had one and they were not scholarly or medical articles, they were the kind of articles those of us who have suffered one read. They were the kind of articles we read to make sense of it all. I recognized it because I’ve done the same and written many. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks, she’s probably had a miscarriage and I didn’t know. After all, it’s not something you lead with in an introduction or just bring up out of the blue or at all, especially if you’re not a writer. I forget that sometimes.

I sat there staring at the screen blankly, hoping and praying that I hadn’t made any stupid comments or jokes like people have done to me over the years. Like me, she has 2 daughters in close proximity and like me, she’s probably gotten the, “when are you having another one?” or “when are you guys going for the little boy?” I’ve got to say, these questions always killed me just a little bit inside because I knew that we had been pregnant that third time and we miscarried. It stings but what am I going to do, explain to every single person that asks me that I miscarried? Spend the rest of my life being able to do nothing more than cry.

In the first place, it’s not everyone’s business. In the second place, it hurts to talk about it. It’s still a touchy subject for me and I’m not sure it ever won’t be. Some things change you forever. Plus, when I have told people, that still doesn’t guarantee that they won’t say something stupid. I’ve learned that when people are at a loss for what to say, they tend to fill the space with words that they should have kept to themselves. When does this stop hurting?

It’s been 4 years. This November, I should be celebrating a 4th birthday for my youngest but instead, I will remember while everyone else has forgotten. No, I am not allowed that luxury. I can never forget; the feeling of loss, emptiness and sheer loneliness. I’ve never felt so lonely and alone as I did in those first days after my miscarriage. There were people there who tried to help but having my miscarriage felt as though I had been exiled off to a planet of one, everything else was just noise and none of it made sense.

I don’t cry anymore, not usually. I do think of my lost baby almost daily. If I see a child the age he/she would be or a family with three children or see my youngest with one of her younger cousins. Or when I see our last name and realize that my husband is the end of his line. I still feel like a failure like I did in those first few days.

That’s one of the worst parts of a miscarriage, feeling like your body failed you and betrayed the life you were supposed to bring forth into the world.

I’ve talked about this to my husband and I don’t think he understands exactly what I went through when I lost our baby. For him, I lost a child that never was. For me, I lost the child that could have been; that already was. That loss broke me forever. I have not been the same. I used to feel like God himself betrayed me. This betrayal scarred me too much to ever try again. I knew then and I know now that I cannot survive the pain of a new loss. I’ve still not recovered from the last time.

People who haven’t had the misfortune of losing a child have said the most unthinkable things to me like… “there must have been something wrong with the baby”, “it must not have been meant to be” and, the absolute worst, “in a way, aren’t you relieved?” And the ever popular, “one of these days when you go to heaven, you’ll get to hold your baby.” I know the intention is well but have you ever thought for one moment that the possibility of holding a child in heaven is a poor substitute for getting to hold him/her everyday here on earth? Every time I’ve heard any of these comments, I’ve had to choke back the tears and stifle my rage. Why would you ever say these things to someone, especially a grieving mother? And no, there is no time limit on grief. I can’t just get over it.

Which brings me back to why I wrote this piece in the first place, I pray I never ask any woman who experienced a loss when she is going to try for that next baby (because I probably have without knowing it). I know how even the mention of a new baby after a loss feels like a kick to the guts and I never want to be the person who kicks another mom when she’s down. The scary truth is that we don’t get over it, ever. Getting pregnant again, for some of us, is unthinkable and, for others, one of the scariest things we will ever face.

And to all the moms who have lost their babies, I don’t know when it stops hurting or when we get to stop feeling like a raw nerve, maybe never, but I’m here and I’ve been where you are. I see you. I know the hurt that lives in your heart and I am sorry that any of us ever had to know this reality. All we can do is keep living each day and carrying our lost babies hearts in our hearts. They were here. You are their mothers, forever and for always.

This is my truth about miscarriage.

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signs of miscarriage, miscarriage symptoms, causes of miscarriage, grief, sadness, loss, miscarriage, lost baby, how to carry on after a miscarriage

Lost baby. No crying. You’re lost to me. Helpless, my only option to carry on. 4 years ago today, I lost my world as I knew it and what was to become of it. My life was shattered into a million pieces and scattered to the wind, blown around the universe like a zillion tiny particles of air. But with all that “air” blowing around, for the life of me, I couldn’t breathe all I could do was cry for my lost baby. I cried until I no longer had any tears. I cried until I felt numb. I cried until I felt like an empty shell of who I was.

I couldn’t speak. Words failed me. They formed at machine gun speed in my broken mind but got caught in my throat and I nearly choked to death on them, right there in the parking lot of my OB, again in my bed and for several months following. The emotional time bombs of grief that come with a mother’s loss blew up beneath my feet and left me in tattered, bloody parts; strewn far and wide.

All I could do, while witnessing the end of my world, was fall to my knees, howl at the world and sob inconsolably at the inhumanity that the world had thrust upon me. I could not draw breath in the fog of my sadness; I suffocated beneath the weight of loss a little more with each passing breath I took. Each time more painful; crueler.

They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle but I felt as if God gave me so much more credit than I deserved.
The entire world came crashing head on at me and I was stunned, dumbfounded and all I could do was wait to see if I could withstand the impact. I braced myself and prayed for swift death.

I’m not meant to survive this sort of blow. It’s too much. I didn’t even want to come out the other end because I knew, in that one moment, I would never be the same. I would be changed forever and there is no coming back from that. There is only surviving and that’s not the same as living, as you were.

For months, there was only sobbing and darkness. Solitude and Vicodin were my only comfort. I wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, I wanted to fade into forever because I was no longer any good to anyone. What good is a mother without her child? What is a childless mother? This was not how nature intended it.

Lost baby.

In the mirror, all I saw was pain and loneliness. All that I could feel was overwhelming anger and bitterness. I was in the deepest recesses of hell and no one could reach me, save for my living children. Like a tether to life, like a far off whisper begging me to step back from that ledge. I had one foot here and one foot in another world, lingering in the loss. All I wanted to do was step off that ledge.

I couldn’t make out where I belonged. All I knew is that it hurt to breath. It was torture to exist. I wanted to die. I deserved to be dead. I didn’t deserve to live. I had failed my child.

I don’t know if I’ve ever said that out loud but it’s how I felt. How could I live, knowing the child growing inside me had died? A part of my soul had died. The best part of me ceased to exist. I felt worthless and worse, undeserving to even love the children I had because in losing one, I had failed them all.

It still hurts; not every day and not always. But I feel like I’ve spent the past 4 years changing and hiding in the shadows; afraid the sadness would find me and inflict it’s cruel punishment once again. The grief is too unbearable.

But I hear my daughters laughing and something inside me, tells me that I deserve to know this happiness. I don’t have to feel guilty for living and loving these girls because it’s not wrong to go on living for them. It’s not wrong to feel pride, unconditional love and overwhelming gratitude for the gift of motherhood. I deserve to be here and it doesn’t diminish the loss because I’ve been able to carry on when once all I could do was cry.

I think of my baby that I lost, every single day. I am mother to three children. If I’m lucky, I get another 50 years on this earth with my girls and then, I look forward to finally meeting the child I never got to hold but have always loved just as much as I do my other two. One day, we will all be together and I deserve to live, to thrive, until that day because my children deserve nothing less; I deserve nothing less.

As long as I can draw breath into my body, I will love you always my lost baby.

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teaching your child about loss, losing a family pet, pets

The hardest thing we have to do as parents is teaching your child about loss. I have two daughters and my youngest is 8-years-old. In the last three years, she has felt the weight of the loss of a sibling, her beloved dog, a cousin and a goldfish. She has a great grandmother and a great-great aunt who are both in their late 80’s and we know more loss is on it’s way but I want to protect them for as long as possible.

 

Yesterday morning before school, we had the girls say goodbye to Teddy just in case the vet could not save him. I was a nervous wreck. My daughter collapsed into my arms and whispered through tear stained cheeks, “Mommy, please don’t let him die.” I knew in that moment, I was going to fight as hard as I’d ever fought to keep this little guy alive.

 

I found the best exotic pet vet in town, begged to be squeezed in as soon as possible and drove across the city with the weak little guy strapped into the front seat in a box, I gingerly seat belted him in as to not disturb him in his weakened state. I felt sick to my stomach. A million what ifs ran through my mind and they all ended with me breaking my daughter’s heart.

 

At the veterinarian’s office, Teddy was thoroughly checked. I was told that it was pneumonia. The remedy? Antibiotics and IV fluids. I was given more liquid antibiotics to give him twice a day until he was well. I left there feeling like I had dodged a major bullet. I had saved him and spared my daughter, yet another loss.

 

We spent the day holding him and talking to him. He quietly chirped and nuzzled into my chin. At first his breathing was labored but soon it quieted and he lay, softly against me where he stayed for hours before doing the same with my daughter.

 

This morning, she held him while she ate breakfast. The Big Guy and I took him briefly to administer his meds. He chirped loudly, which at first I thought was an improvement from his listlessness yesterday but then I began to consider that maybe it was pain that elicited his reaction.

 

My daughter kissed him goodbye and told him that she loved him before she went to school this morning. Then she said, “See you after school, Teddy Bear.” Only she won’t.

 

I came home and cleaned up the house a little bit and then I checked on our little Teddy. I picked him up and he was completely limp but warm. A first, I thought maybe he was fine just still because of the pneumonia and then; I realized he wasn’t breathing and he was not responsive.

 

I can’t even explain the reaction I had. I sobbed and lost my breath because I don’t want to be the one to break my daughter’s heart. I can still hear her whispering for me to save him. It lingers in the air like the faint smell of perfume after someone leaves the room.

 

Today, when she comes home, I am tasked with the unfortunate duty of telling her that her beloved longhaired Guinea Pig, Ted Koppel, has died in my arms from pneumonia while my daughter was at school. I hate teaching my children about loss because it is one that they will learn over and over in this life.

 

Now, it’s pick up time. Time to be there for my girl, after I have to break their tiny hearts and tear their world apart. I hate this part of parenting.

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