Hope for tomorrow.

I’ve contemplated not sharing too much of our new pregnancy on this blog for a few reasons. One, I noticed that when I visited other people’s blog pages in the past, hearing about their new pregnancies wasn’t always easy for me. I felt happy and hopeful for the families who were ready to move on, but I wasn’t there yet. Reading about other people’s pregnancies and living babies made me feel more sad and alienated than I already felt. I obviously don’t want to hurt the people who stop in on my blog for comfort. Two, I don’t want to take away from Rylan. This blog was meant for him. For our journey with him. But, what I’ve recently lost sight of is that this blog is also about our healing. Telling our “now” story and our “future” story is still telling Rylan’s story. Everything that we have done and continue to do in our lives since we lost him is impacted by him, his existence, and his physical departure from our lives. So, moving forward I will probably be sharing more about our life, including the journey we our taking now with our “rainbow” baby, as people often refer to them.

So, that’s a good place for me to start. I don’t particularly like the term “rainbow baby” for a child that follows the one you’ve lost. I understand why someone coined the term. Rainbows signify hope and beauty. I wonder, though, what that makes the previous child. What comes before a rainbow? Rain? A thunderstorm? Either way it feels like something dark. Granted, losing Ry brought about a very dark time in our lives—but it’s the loss that was dark and sad—not our son. Rylan was beautiful. A joy while he was with us. I know I’m being ultra sensitive here, but personally, something feels off about the rainbow thing. So, moving forward I am going to refer to the new baby as our “hope baby.” That this baby will stand for a hopeful future. The hope of being active parents. The hope that we will give Rylan a younger sibling—one that he can help us protect from afar. The hope that we can one day share the amazing love we have for each other with our very own child every day. I obviously don’t want to offend anyone who likes or uses the “rainbow baby” term. It’s just not for me.

I will also be referring to the baby as B2K. A nickname I gave this new baby early on when I didn’t know the gender. The nickname stands for “Baby 2 Kudela” and it makes me smile when I say it. Chris and I have decided not to share the gender with anyone throughout the pregnancy so it’s an easy way not to slip around our friends and family. Get use to the term—you’re going to hear it a lot from here on out.

I usually refer to this pregnancy as being bitter sweet. I feel very good knowing that we’ve been given a second chance at being active parents. However, sitting here after such a tremendous loss is difficult in so many ways, too. Below are some of my thoughts on how this pregnancy is/has been different for me than my first experience and how I feel it differs from parents that haven’t endured the tragedy of losing their baby.

  • When I’m excited about the new baby I feel like I’m disregarding Rylan. Like I’m tossing him aside. Like I’m a bad mother.
  • When I miss Rylan and feel reluctant to attach too much to the new pregnancy I feel I’m neglecting B2K. Like this baby is not as important as my first. Like I’m a bad mother.
  • Having a baby in my belly right now isn’t a guarantee that I will have a lifetime with my child in the future. I am aware that it can be taken away from me in the blink of an eye.
  • It took me a long time to feel comfortable enough to download a baby app for my phone—and I couldn’t bring myself to use the same one as I used for Ry. I’m so afraid of being bombarded with baby alerts, emails, and snail mail again. I know how painful it was to receive those things once Rylan had died—the world didn’t know what happened to us. Heck, I still receive mail congratulating me on “1 year with your baby” and “milestones that you and you’re baby have shared this year” and “what year 2 will bring for you and your family.” God forbid anything happen to B2K, I don’t think I could deal with all of those reminders again… and x2!
  • I haven’t held a baby in over a year.
  • I avoid encounters with babies and new moms at all costs. Being in their presence is especially difficult for me. If things go as planned with B2K I wonder how I will react and feel during that first moment together.
  • I’m more terrified of labor and delivery than before. Last time it was the unknown of never having a baby that was scary. This time I know how scary it was and how painful it was for me. I’m fearful of doing it again.
  • I haven’t seen some of our close friends (a couple and their little girl) in over a year. I’ve mentioned them in my blog before. Their daughter was born right before Rylan. Our lives, the lives of our children, and our futures appeared to be aligning perfectly before our son died. Things flipped completely after that. It made it feel especially cruel. Now their experience is a direct reminder of what we don’t have—what we missed out on in the past year, and what continues to be absent in our lives. I’m afraid that seeing their little girl will be painful for us. The last time I held Erin, Rylan was kicking at her from inside my belly. I feel like we lost so much more than just Rylan in this experience. This friendship is just one of the many. Not being a part of their lives and their joy makes me feel awful. I feel like a horrible friend. They have been so understanding about what’s happened, but it doesn’t change how awful I feel about the whole thing. The good thing is that I feel ready to see them for the first time as a family. It may be hard but I’m not ready to lose them forever.
  • I’m not sure what to do about the nursery. Its gender neutral. If I redecorate than I feel like I’m erasing Rylan from our lives, like I’m replacing him. If I leave it as is I feel like I’m not treating B2K with the individual love he/she deserves.
  • I don’t want a baby shower. I have plenty of usable items (that I held on to) from the first shower. I’m afraid that something might happen and I don’t want us to get to ahead of ourselves.
  • Chris and I interact with B2K more in some ways. I think it’s because we want to make the most of the time we have “just in case.” With Ry, we assumed we’d have all the time in the world to share our love and experiences. This time we don’t want to regret things we have or haven’t done during the pregnancy stage.
  • I can’t tell the difference between crazy and rational thoughts about the new baby. What physical feelings are normal and which deserve a call to or visit to the doctor.
  • All doctors appointments are scary. I hold my breath before every ultrasound and dopplar check.
  • I wish I could go to the doctor every morning to be reassured that B2K is breathing and their is a good heartbeat.
  • I don’t feel comfortable talking to most pregnant women about their pregnancies. Even though we’re in a similar place physically, I feel like they may as well be aliens because I couldn’t feel more different mentally.
  • I’m afraid to step into Babies r Us.
  • Sometimes I have dreams/nightmares about the moment I found out that Rylan died or that I’m having to tell people what happened.
  • Sometimes I have dreams/nightmares that something bad has happened to B2K.
  • I have panic attacks about whether B2K is alive and okay. Sometimes it’s a result of the nightmares.
  • I feel especially happy when I feel B2K moving and try to share it with my husband whenever possible.
  • I’m afraid of unusual (and some ridiculous) things that I feel might lead to losing B2K. Like getting my hair colored, getting a pedicure, eating/drinking items with caffeine, lifting too much or overexerting myself, working late hours, getting injured, eating hot dogs, sleeping on my back accidentally…and the list goes on and on.
  • I was afraid to purchase clothing for the new baby. Again, nervous about jinxing everything or allowing myself to have expectations that things will work out when I know there is a chance they may not. Needless to say, Chris made the first move and picked up an item that he gave me for Mother’s Day. I got over my fear and purchased a few things last week. It felt good and scary at the same time.
  • I’m afraid that I cannot afford to be out on maternity leave for 3 months (just like last time). But, this time I don’t care. If I’m lucky and blessed enough to have a healthy, breathing baby when this pregnancy comes to term I will spend all of the time I possibly can with B2K.
  • I’m going to make someone else bring the baby carseat to the hospital. I don’t want to have it ready in my car until I know that I’m bringing home our baby.
  • My doctor is male this time and I’ve chosen a hospital closer to home. If I feel anything out of the ordinary with B2K I want to be able to act quickly.
  • Being pregnant gives people more of a reason to ask if this is my first child. It forces me to tell people about Rylan’s death. Sometimes it’s nice to have a reason to talk about him and share the fact that I am technically a mom with others, even if they’re strangers. Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes it feels good and difficult. Telling the story more than one time in a day is especially hard. Sometimes I encounter people who have had something happen to them, someone close to them, or someone they know. It’s nice to hear stories about couples like us who have gone on to have more children. It gives a bit of hope.

Well, I’ve rambled enough and need to tear myself away from the computer to enjoy some of the sunshine this weekend. I have no doubt that I will continue the list above in future posts…that I will have more to share as B2K grows. Thank you, as always, for stopping by. I am sending hugs to all of the other parents who are learning to live again after losing their children.

Advertisements

The second hardest day of my life.

I could not wait for winter to come to a close. Yet, as I sit here, I can say that I’m not quite ready for spring, either. Now, let’s not get confused here. I’m most definitely ready for sundresses, tanks, and flip flops. Sun on my face and flowering trees. Birds singing in the morning and a light breeze through the windows at night. But like everything in my life since we lost Rylan, there is no light without shadows. Spring does not just bring about the expectation of sunnier days for me, but the promise of sorrow.

My beautiful son, Rylan died, and was born, on May 12th. That was Mother’s Day last year. I think that made losing him feel extra cruel. It still hurts me to the core. Both his 1st birthday and Mother’s Day have come. This year they actually fall on different days. I’m not sure if that softens the blow at all. In fact, I will now have two, consecutive days of extreme heartbreak to overcome—every year. And that’s not saying that the other days of the year are easy. The past few weeks grew more and more difficult as today approached. It’s been harder to make it through regular days. I haven’t been able to sleep, and it’s not because I have to get up 8 times a night for bio breaks. I’ve sat and stared at this computer screen several times trying to complete this post and have found it difficult to gather words on a page that can truly capture how I feel.

I can’t believe that it has been a year. Sometimes I run through those last few days, the weeks that closely followed our baby’s death, in my head and in my heart. It’s like experiencing a nightmare while you’re fully awake. I can feel everything inside as if it’s occurring in the present moment. I can feel the nervousness and fear of not knowing what delivery will be or feel like. I can see my husband laying next to me in bed as we wait for labor to progress. Waiting to go to the hospital when the time is “right.” I can hear our conversation about how our lives are about to change in such a different, and amazing, way. Our excitement. I concentrate on the music playing and the designs that dance on the computer screen in our guest room. I feel how painful the contractions are and how hard it is to make the drive to the hospital, which is not super close to our home. I can picture my car, abandoned by the front doors, hazard lights flashing against the columns of the entryway in the middle of the night. The concern on my husbands face when the first entrance we approach is locked. I can feel the contractions becoming stronger. I’m scared. Barely able to walk. Once inside, my husband wheels me up to the elevator so we can get to the maternity floor. I hand my insurance cards to the nurse once we reach our destination. I try to keep calm. We enter the room where our lives will be forever changed. The pain becomes scarier. Nearly unbearable. My water breaks immediately. The nurses use a dopplar on my stomach. Than an ultrasound machine. I can sense that something is wrong. I hear the silence in the room as they look and listen. It feels like an eternity and mere seconds when they look up at us and say, “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat. I’m sorry.” I can barely process what is happening at that moment. Between the shock and severe physical pain I can only concentrate on breathing. Devastated. The only word in the English language that remotely comes close to how I felt that night—how I felt after—and how I continue to feel over our great loss every day.

I cry less these days, but when I do it’s long and hard. Sorrow runs deep. Losing a child is not something you can ever accept or get beyond. I know that I’ve said it before, but I think it’s unnatural. I really don’t think that parents are meant to bury their babies. It goes against the cycle of life. The process is so backwards that parents can’t be expected to easily and comfortably move forward. The loss is something we carry forever. I wish that the people we encounter everyday could understand how we feel. But I’ve learned that even the people who come close to understanding (like some of you readers) can’t relate to everything I say, nor do I relate to everything you say. All of our experiences are different. Our actions after losing our children were different. The way we cope is different. Even my husband and I, who have endured losing the same child, handle the loss individually. Some of the hurt is the same, some varies. Losing a child can leave you in a very lonely place. Sometimes the hurt is tucked down deep inside you. When you attend family functions or go out with friends. When you go to work or take a trip to the store. But keeping it down or feeling like you have to keep it under the surface-especially for days or weeks on end—can intensify the isolation and hurt you feel. That is where I am a lot of the time. I wish that no one had to experience the loss of a child. All I can say is that it will alter your view of the world and change who you are forever.

So let’s talk about Mother’s Day. Leading up to yesterday was tough. Listening to other people’s upcoming plans at work last week. Commercials on television. Advertising in just about every store you stepped into for the past month. For as sad as I feel I must say that my day at home was easier than the days leading up to it, in some ways. The sun was out and the weather was warm. No rain, thank goodness. Sat outside for a little. Picked up some hanging baskets for the porch with my hubby. It’s nice to be surrounded by green leaves and flowers again. I saw my mom and wished her a happy mothers day. I gave her a book about us. Filling it out was nice because it adjusted my focus from the time I’m missing with Rylan to the time I’ve shared with my mother over the years. My parents gave me a lovely hibiscus tree for our back deck and it was my favorite color, yellow. My sister dropped off some pretty flowers and a flag with a butterfly on it for the walkway up to our house. My mother-in-law gave me a bracelet with a butterfly on it. An unexpected bouquet of roses was left by one of my mom’s friends (whom I’ve never met) which was really nice, and surprising, as well. I also received a bunch of thoughtful text messages. It was nice to be remembered. I did my share of crying, but all in all, the day was fine.

May 12, 2014. Rylan’s first birthday. It hurts to think about what today should’ve been… what the past year may have been like for our family, had he survived. All of the milestones we missed out on together. And, I’m not just talking about crawling and graduating to jars of baby food. I’m talking about the little things that matter even more. Reading him books and rocking him to sleep at night. Watching him interact with his daddy, including watching Chris fumble around with stinky diapers. Seeing Ry smile and laugh. Hiding beside his crib to watch him sleep. Calling him by name and telling him we love him, in person. Taking him on outings and admiring as family and friends hold him in their arms. Gazing into his eyes. Memorizing the scent of his hair and skin. Playing with him at bath time, in the swimming pool, or at the beach. There are so many things that I could write a novel covering just 1 year of life. I imagine we would have planned a small gathering of friends and family to celebrate. That there would have been a cute theme and photos of his little hands grabbing onto a handful of cake and icing—the dog brothers, no doubt, sweeping up the remains. I wish things were different so badly. But with saying all of that, Chris and I decided to make the most of his day, even if he can only be present in our hearts. We decided to continue the butterfly release that we were able to perform at his funeral (thanks to some friends last year). We ordered a dozen for Chris and I to release today and decided to free most of them at the cemetery, with just a few left for home. We wanted them to be a gift to Rylan. Something that we can do in his memory every year. A family tradition for our son. We started our morning with a trip to his grave. We brought flowers and butterflies in tow, along with a blanket to sit on. We stayed awhile and watched the butterflies flutter about in the grass and dance among the flowers nearby. It was sad, but peaceful. Shortly after we went to lunch at a nice restaurant nearby and enjoyed each other’s company. Just as yesterday, and many days of the year, today has been a mix of happy and deep sadness.

I want people to know that Chris and I are so thankful to have each other. That we recognize that having people in our lives who care, even if they may never truly understand the loss we’ve endured, is a blessing. I want people to know how much Chris and I love our Rylan. How missed he is, how beautiful he was, and how touched we’ve been by his life and by his premature departure from our lives.

Happy 1st birthday, my sweet Rylan. I miss you terribly.

 

photo

Mourning sickness.

Once again, it’s been awhile since I’ve had the time to write. With my son’s 1st birthday, the anniversary of our tremendous loss, fast approaching I sit here with a mix of emotions. Some things remain the same, some things are very different.

This time last year I was very much pregnant. Excited. Innocent. Nervous. Happy. Busy. Hungry. Uncomfortable. Tired. Very swollen. Eager to not be pregnant anymore, and looking forward to finally meeting our baby boy for the first time. Dreaming about what he would look like, sound like, and what we would do together in the upcoming summer months (and beyond). Funny how your life can change in the blink of an eye.

Today, I’m pregnant. Happy. Unbalanced with feelings of fear, guilt, and, well, did I mention fear? It’s funny, I have heard a lot of stories from people who thought they were ready to get pregnant again immediately after the loss of their babies. I know that Chris and I discussed getting pregnant again pretty soon after we lost Rylan. It was a confusing time for us—and why wouldn’t it be for anyone in our shoes? We prepared for almost a year to have our son and when it was time to be the parents we expected to be, it all disappeared. Our minds and bodies wanted to be parents so badly. It felt wrong not to be. But getting pregnant immediately wasn’t the answer for us. We knew deep down that we didn’t just want to instantly be parents to another baby—we wanted to actively be Rylan’s mom and dad.

Can I honestly say that waiting another 10+ months to get pregnant has given me a clear head or that I’m 100% ready to go through the experience of pregnancy again? No. But I can honestly say that I would never answer that question with a “yes,” whether it was 10 days or 10 years from now. I’m glad that I gave it a little more time, but I think that I’m as ready as I ever will be.

I had no idea how being pregnant again would make me feel. I took the first at-home test when I knew that I wasn’t feeling quite right for a week or so. The reading was negative so I shrugged it off as one of the virus’ sweeping through the office at work. A week after, and a few days late (which is extremely abnormal for me), I broke out the 2nd test that came with the kit. When I saw the positive indication on the 2nd stick, my emotions mirrored those that I felt when I found out I was pregnant with Rylan. Excitement and nervousness filled my body quickly, to the point of trembling hands. I told Chris immediately. I think that he shared the same emotions. Since that time I have been riddled with all-day nausea and fatigue. But that didn’t stop me from taking 3 more pregnancy tests before my OB appointment, just to be absolutely sure that the first test was correct. That is the first “issue” I’ve encountered as a mourning mom, trying again. Without a bump it’s easy to feel like being pregnant can’t be real—even when you find yourself kneeling in front of cold porcelain every day. Today we are 10 weeks along, have had 1 ultrasound, 2 blood draws, and 1 visit with a perinatologist. I have 3 more appointments in the next 3 weeks. It’s overwhelming but I’m glad to be monitored so closely this time around. I think that I will need plenty of “check-ins” to keep my head on straight.

Issue #2: I feel guilt over being pregnant again, with regard to Rylan. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I am completely “over” the loss of our first baby. That I’m moving on or away from him. That he is being replaced in any way. That he will ever be forgotten or not missed with every ounce of my heart, every single day of my life. It’s hard not to feel that way when you are grieving the loss of 1 baby and trying to get mentally prepared to try for another child.

Issue #3: I feel guilt over not being 100% excited about my current pregnancy. Because of issue #2, and our only other experience with pregnancy, it makes it hard to jump into this one with both feet. It seems unfair to this baby, but I just can’t do it, at least not yet. The doctor put it well when he said (in similar words), “It’s okay to be scared. I’ve worked with many parents like you and it can be difficult to fully connect with your next pregnancy—for fear of being devastated again.” So true.

I am trying to stay positive, but it’s a daily struggle. To say that I’m scared is a serious understatement. My mind is scrambled over the loss of Rylan daily, along with thoughts of a new baby and trying to do things “right.” I continue to take one day at a time. My age paired with a previous stillbirth makes this pregnancy very risky. I know that early miscarriage is common and every cramp or twinge in my uterus shakes me to the core. We’ve only told a select group of people so far, especially since it is still early. I’m trying to do everything different—with hope that this little peanut will have a better chance at life—even though I know it’s not really up to me. I learned that lesson last time. I’ve switched practices and the OB that I’m seeing, along with a new hospital. My doctor is male instead of female which is a little hard to get used to—however, the doctor that delivered Rylan was female and was rude that night until she found out that he died. I learned that being female doesn’t always mean that they relate to you or can sympathize any better. So, I’m giving it a try. He delivered my niece and she is beautifully healthy so I guess that is something. There is something nice, too, about seeing 1 doctor in a small practice versus 10 doctors in a large one. In just a few appointments I already felt more cared for than I did before and after our loss at the last clinic. In many places when you have a baby the office calls you or makes a visit to your home in the weeks that follow. When we lost Rylan we had neither. When I had to attend 2 standard delivery follow-ups in the office I sat in the waiting area, among pregnant women and moms with babies by their side, in tears before going back to the exam room. At the new clinic, I mentioned having some difficulty being around families and babies and the nurse told me they could bring me in through a back door to avoid the wait if need be. I thought that was really surprising and thoughtful. So, I will let you all know how it goes in the weeks to come. So far, we’ve met with a specialist to review our previous records and to develop a plan for the new pregnancy moving forward. A lot of tests and appointments are in our future.

For all of you parents who are reading along with our story, I hope you remember to make decisions that support your healing. I hope that you are surrounded with people who love you and support the person you need to be today. If you have a significant other who shares your loss, make time for each other and find a way to connect. Talk. Laugh. Go out and break up the daily routine. Try not to lose each other in the loss—it’s when you need each other the most, I promise. If there is one thing in life that you can count on, it’s change. Something awaits you around the corner. Hang in there.

Same time, different place.

9 months. That’s how long I had with my son. When I was fighting for Z’s, jamming my swollen, sausage feet into extra wide shoes, carefully following food instructions at every meal, and fidgeting with one-size-fits-all clothing, those 40 weeks felt like forever. I couldn’t wait for pregnancy to be over. Surely, to return to a state that more resembled “me.” But, mostly because  I would meet my son face-to-face and become the mother I dreamt about being for him for so long. When I look back now, without him physically in my life today, those 9 months feel so short lived. So fast. If I knew then that the only time we’d be together would be with him in my belly, than I would go back today without question to relive that time, and make more of it. I took for granted our time together because I thought that we’d have a lifetime to get to know each other. To make memories. To be a family. I would have talked to him even more. I would’ve read him books every night. I would have had Chris sing him his songs more often. I would have taken a day off of work to focus on us, with no distractions. I would’ve named him sooner so that I could call his name out when I spoke to him. My perception of those 9 months changed so drastically when I found out that my son had died. Now they feel as brief as the blink of an eye.

9 months. That’s how long I’ve been without my son. The exact amount of time that we had him in our life, he has now been gone. What a crazy feeling. Some days it feels like years have passed, although the sad feeling inside often feels as fresh as the day we said goodbye.

So, where am I today? I miss Rylan and the chance I had to be his mom. I still want it back and want to refuse the hand we’ve been dealt. Reality is a dish I just want to send back. And, if I have to accept it than I want something in return—as selfish and ridiculous as it sounds, I want some compensation for our heartache and daily suffering. I want to open my front door one day to the prize patrol on my doorstep with balloons and a fat, oversized check. I want to stumble on the winning power ball ticket in a parking lot. I don’t expect such monetary things to replace the devastation I feel over the loss of my son—I just wish I had the means to pay off all of my bills so I could take the proper time away from work and the world to make grieving for my son the priority it needs to be.

I still have trouble out in the world being with, around, or near families, parents, and children. I’m terrified of babies, especially holding a baby that is not Rylan. I don’t think I have the strength to do it without a box of tissues. And I’m afraid that the despair it could awaken could last for days, maybe even weeks. The last baby I held was my friend’s daughter, and at the time Rylan was warm in my belly and a week from delivery. He even kicked her a little and I joked about him being jealous or trying to get the attention of his future playmate. I remember thinking at that moment how good it felt and how I longed to hold my own baby in the months to come. I was excited. Holding a baby now will be so much different. I imagine I will feel nothing but heartache over what I can’t have with my own son. Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. I wonder if the only way to overcome that hurdle will be the day that I’m able to have another child with Chris, if we are so lucky. If we get to hold our own son or daughter in the future. That time feels like such a long way off from now and I’m not sure how to cope until then. I just hope it happens someday.

When I’m not at work, I try to think about where I want our life to go—what we can do to make the best of our now and enrich our future. As individuals. As a couple. And, for the family that we hope to grow in the future. It’s a positive place to focus my energy.

I’ve also felt less than in shape since the delivery. I’m still not able to get a leg into my favorite pair of jeans and fret over wearing a bathing suit in June. Bummer, right?! Because my schedule doesn’t allow for much free time to hit a gym we decided to invest in a piece of exercise equipment that can provide a great workout in a very, very short time. And, wow, did I feel out of shape hopping up on that thing for the first time. But, I do feel good doing something for my health. We’re also trying to eat a little better. It is good for me physically and mentally—and will be very good if I’m ever blessed with a baby again. I feel like every positive step is good for us—we try to set small, achievable goals knowing that they add up in the end.

I’ve recently been feeling less satisfied with counseling. Don’t get me wrong, our counselor is amazing, and I’d recommend her and their group to anyone experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one. Lately, I just feel like there isn’t much to say. I repeat myself a lot and I feel like nobody can really give me what I need or want, which is Rylan back here with us. Sometimes it’s good to have an outside perspective and to be able to tell someone how we feel without judgement—even if it is repetitive. I use to walk out of her office feeling like something new was brought to light or that a small weight was lifted, even if just temporarily. And I know not every session will be groundbreaking. But lately I feel like I’ve left just as I came. Chris and I have talked and have made no decisions yet about whether to stop going…but it is on my mind. I’ll keep you posted on where we end up. I guess I feel like if we stop going and begin to have issues we can always go back, right?

Well, I have to run. Thank you, as always, for stopping in on my blog. I hope that you and your family are finding ways to move forward and support each other during such a difficult time. Remember, even small steps can make a difference and add something positive to your lives. It may not remove the heartache, but it will help you survive. Hugs to everyone.

One small step.

A good friend of mine gave me a very thoughtful gift this past Christmas. Actually, a few thoughtful gifts. She knows how hard it is for me to go to work every day, surrounded by the countless family reminders that are impossible to avoid. The conversations, the stories. The collage of photos and artwork of children, carefully pinned to cubicle walls. Unexpected visits from sick kids sent home from school or daycare. And the millions of other obstacles I encounter. She knows how much it hurts me to feel like I can’t talk about my son. That I can’t have his photo out for people to admire like other parents. That I’m afraid that people won’t want to talk about him or see his picture because it’s too sad or uncomfortable. Because they know he’s not alive. This friend gave me picture frames for Christmas and the encouragement to set Rylan’s picture out on my desk at work. And yes, I said frames, plural, if you didn’t catch that part. She actually gave me 4-5 different styles to ensure that I could pick the one, or couple of frames, that I felt would best fit such an important image. The gift was amazing. Especially the reassurance that putting his picture out in the open was something viewed as a good thing by someone else. Someone that would surely see his picture every time they stopped by. For that I will never be able to truly thank her.

I will be honest with you. Although I set those frames out on my desk shortly after I unwrapped them, they have remained empty for the past month. Partially because my work schedule has been so busy. But mostly because I was afraid. For the reasons listed above. I’ve also been nervous about reviewing the collection of photos I have in that tucked away folder on my desktop. I know that seeing his little face causes mixed reactions for me, a few which undoubtedly bring on the waterworks.

My recent days at work have been more of a struggle. Today was especially hard. And, tonight, before I left work I thought about my friend and her gifts. I pulled together the courage to search out a picture. I printed it, trimmed it out, and placed it in the largest frame. It’s a lovely wooden frame, placed on my desk to the right, and set carefully beside a photo of me and Chris. I suppose I wanted to see our family together. I did tear up a bit. It’s funny how I have a similar photo on my dresser at home—the same one that I say goodnight to before bed every evening—but for some reason seeing it sitting there at work caused a wave of emotions. I’m nervous about the next few days, what people will or will not say or do as a result of my bold step. But, I feel good that I did something for me, for my family. So that people know I had a son and so they don’t forget about him. So they know that I love him and remember that he is still a part of my every day. That I’m proud to be his mom.

I hope that other parents, walking in similar shoes, will read this and feel the same encouragement that my friend gave me. Don’t be afraid to be proud of your babies and your families. You, too, deserve to be surrounded by your family in your every day and be recognized as parents. After all, you did the most difficult thing a parent ever has to do—you said goodbye.

Love and hugs baby Rylan. Your mommy misses you more than the sun misses the moon.

Fly on the wall.

I started 2 posts this week with no publishing success. I’m about to rework the second in hopes of sharing it with you by the end of the night. Here goes nothing.

Chris has been busy lately so I’ve recently found myself with more time to fill. It doesn’t happen that often, as he is by my side about 98% of the time. We really appreciate our relationship and try to honor that gift by spending as much quality time together as our schedules allow. It feels strange when I’m alone. I think about how Chris works from home and how he is by himself a lot, and wonder how he does it—especially since my work schedule and commute cause me to arrive home late most evenings. It’s a long day for both of us. Me, constantly busy and stimulated, longing for the safety, comfort, and quiet of home—Chris, looking forward to human interaction, conversation, and getting out of the house. I don’t know whose day is worse. Maybe neither. I know that most days I wish that I could work from home. Or maybe not work at all. In any case, I think a lot about how hard it must be for him sometimes. It’s tough not to sit here and get lost in your own head. I compare it to those dreaded evenings, which happened more in the beginning, when I just couldn’t shut my brain off and felt consumed by my loss. Laying awake, wide-eyed, heart pounding, while the rest of the world was in dreamland. It’s difficult not to feel sad, lonely, and deeply depressed. Even though there is a part of me who is totally satisfied and overjoyed to get some peace and time for myself, another part of me feels so overwhelmed with sorrow. All of those difficult moments I experience on a daily basis just add up over time. They fill me up, silently stewing, just waiting for the right moment to boil over. Every time I have to witness the family life that I don’t have—whether it’s from afar or whether I’m smack dab in the middle of it—it’s like getting stabbed in the heart every time. Then add in the moments I spend considering my own experiences—where I was, where I sit now, how I wish things were, and where I hope to be in the future—a few minutes alone and you can imagine how easy it is for me to surround myself in darkness.

I’m really tired of being the onlooker. It’s beyond difficult. I’m tired of having to listen to and watch everyone else get what I feel like my family should have, too—right now. There, I said it. I’m tired of feeling jealous, angry, disappointed, sad, and awful. And, I’m tired of keeping it inside all the time. Why must I be subjected to a world where all babies live while I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that my baby died?

I just want to get off the ride for awhile. I don’t want to listen to discussions over baby names. Pregnancy diets. OB appointments, weigh-ins, and especially not the heartbeat. I don’t want to hear about ultrasound photos. Sick kids going to the doctor. Christmas mornings. I don’t want to hear about the hair color of a newborn. Daycare. Your kids’ voices in your iPhone video. I no longer want to hear stories about the amazing, wonderful, silly, annoying, loving, or funny thing a child did yesterday, last night, or last year. And, I’m sorry if that makes me a bad person. I’m sincerely sorry if that makes me a bad friend, sister, or daughter. I know that I sound selfish, and I feel guilty admitting it. I just wish that the people in my daily life could truly understand how I feel and what I’m really going through. Rylan died eight months ago. It may seem like a long time ago to others but the loss is still fresh in my heart and soul. A week of goodbyes does not mean that I’ve magically moved on or away from the loss of my son. My grief is a part of my daily routine. I begin my days by putting on a necklace engraved with his name, think about him during the day, and end it by blowing a kiss to a picture frame that houses a photo of his beautiful, sleeping face.

It wasn’t so long ago that I was pregnant and filled with all of the hope and excitement that goes along with it. I was staring at black and white images dreaming about what my baby’s face would look like—wondering how his smile would glow, whose eye color he would have, and what it would be like to hear his tiny voice for the first time in that hospital room. Back then those thoughts were surrounded by the anticipation of what was to come. By the promise of tomorrow. Those thoughts kept me going when the physical part of being pregnant was tough to bear. I always told myself that it was worth it—because in the end I would have the most amazing gift for the rest of my life. Now, I sit here with the same thoughts, but without the security I once felt. Now I know that I’ll never have those answers. I won’t know what it feels like to hold my son again. I’ll never hear his cries or laughter in the next room. Never see his open eyes, or know what it feels like to have him grip my finger with his tiny hand. I’ll never read him a bedtime story or kiss his forehead goodnight. The list in my head is endless—a lifetime of memories that will never be. The feeling is so difficult to live with—and impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t been through it themselves. I can honestly say that I now know why people commit suicide. I know what true despair is—to be so physically and emotionally weak that you don’t feel like you can possibly go on. I’m not suggesting that I would do anything so rash, so any calls for help are unnecessary. All I’m saying is that I completely get it. It’s hard to want to continue on after you lose your child. It’s really so unnatural. I don’t think parents are meant to bury their babies—no matter how old they are—I think that’s what makes it so traumatic. I truly feel sorry for those who have experienced it and just want them to know that, however you are feeling, you are not alone.

I’m leaving you tonight with a heavy heart and a crazy amount of love for my angel baby. And, wishing you a good night’s sleep.

the-starry-night-1889(1)

Turning the page.

You can’t have light without darkness. Black without white. Nor good without bad. Life is a balancing act.

Saying that our first holiday without Rylan was difficult is an understatement. Last Christmas we were lucky enough to have our 20 week ultrasound a few days before the 25th…on Christmas morning we hurriedly sat ourselves in front of the tree to tear open the envelope that revealed we were having a son. We were so excited that we tried to prop the camera on the couch in order to record ourselves opening it. What an amazing gift. Not only were we blessed with a child, but also with the first boy in a sea of girls in our family. We thought that nobody could top our gift, our announcement, last year. We held onto the news until we could tell our families and even recorded that too. I came across that video over the past few months and watched it. It killed me for so many reasons. I look back at the couple in the video—the couple that looks and sounds a lot like me and my husband—and ache inside because I feel like they were so innocent and naive. It’s like I’m observing complete strangers. I watch and feel so sad for them. They have no idea.

All of the joy and excitement that was, is now just a faded memory—something that barely feels real. If someone told me about those experiences today, without proof, I’d likely tell them it’s fiction. But Chris and I have been left with plenty. We have ultrasound images to prove that I was pregnant. We have video to prove that other people knew we were pregnant. We have receipts from our baby registry stuffed in my nightstand. Photos and decor from two beautiful baby showers on a shelf in his room. I have a few recordings of Rylan’s heartbeat stored in the memo app on my phone. We have cards wishing us well for our future as a family. We have a basement full of toys and furniture. A nursery full of baby boy clothes carefully placed in drawers and suspended from tiny hangers in the closet. There are children’s books sitting quietly in baskets. Terrycloth towels neatly folded in the closet and baby shampoos stowed away in a bathroom drawer that I just can’t bring myself to clean out. It’s like we’re still waiting for him to come home. Wishing he’d come back to us. Hoping. Or maybe we’re just afraid that changing our surroundings will erase the only part of him we have left. What do you do when all you have are the memories that were suppose to be?

Parents that lose children find so much is left behind, while so little remains to hang onto each day. We do our best to cope. We try to honor our children, by showcasing the love that we have for them in some way. We try to find ways to keep them a part of us and as close to our hearts as we can. We have a picture of Rylan on the dresser in our bedroom and another in our living room. My husband and I wear necklaces every day that are engraved with Rylan’s name and the date of his birth. They were a gift from my parents, given the week of his funeral services. We have a few other gifts—necklaces, bracelets—that were also given to us that we wear in honor of his memory, but not every day. We have tattoos to keep him close and to give us the ability to open up and talk about our son to others. We’ve made donations to children’s charities, in his name, which has been so important to us. To know that our love for Rylan is helping other babies and children is amazing. It’s a way to honor his life and his memory.

All of the above are helpful and good, but they don’t replace or remove the heartache and emptiness that I feel without my baby. The longing to take care of him. It goes beyond “wanting” to be a parent. Once you are a parent you can’t shake the need to be a parent, whether your child is physically here or not. That is one of the hardest parts of this experience. It takes me to a place that is beyond sorrow. It makes me feel like a failure. It makes me jealous of other families, other parents—especially the ones who seem to take for granted what they have or what a miracle they’ve witnessed. When a baby cries in public I want to get out of my seat to calm them—but really it’s just the part of me who needs to hold and comfort my own baby. When I hear a child cry out for his mommy I feel stabbed in the heart because I know that I will never hear the same words from my own son. Every baby that is born healthy makes me wonder “why does it work out for them and not for us?” or “what did I do wrong?” The other night, after receiving the joyful email that my co-worker successfully delivered her baby boy, I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up dinner. I pulled into the first space to find out that it was a “reserved for expectant mothers” space. After some choice words, I backed out and took a spot a few lines down in another row. I haven’t stopped thinking about that sign, though. Maybe I should have stayed in that spot, after all. The words seem so accurate in hindsight. Deep inside my soul I continue to be an expectant mother. I’m expecting to share parenthood with my husband—to be a mom and for my son to exist here in my arms. I know that I sound crazy, and, believe me, I do know what is. But understanding what is doesn’t change what your heart, mind, and body feels should be. If you can’t and don’t want to let go of being a parent to your child, than how do you find a way to loosen the grip? If you can’t loosen the grip, does it mean that it’s a good time to try again?

My husband and I have discussed “trying again” for awhile now. Pretty soon after we lost Rylan, about a month or so, I remember talking about how badly we wanted to be parents—sooner than later. But this kind of grief can be so confusing. At that point I wasn’t sure if my feelings were more about wanting to be a mom, in general, or about the natural need and desire to fulfill my job as Rylan’s mom. I also didn’t want to feel like we were trying to replace Rylan in any way or remedy the depression and despair that has come with his loss. I know full well that nobody could ever replace Rylan or the love that we have for him. I also know that the only bandaid in this situation would be having him back here. Being aware of those things doesnt change the fact that thoughts like those can creep in and make you question your intentions. After months of consideration I can tell you that no matter how much time elapses, I will always fall on both sides of the motherhood coin. I will always want to be Rylan’s mom and feel an urgency to be that now. That is a huge part of what drives my sadness. But I also know that I have and always will want to be a mom, moving forward. And, that is okay. I’m so glad that I finally got there. I do want to try again. I do want Ry to have a younger brother or sister. I do want Chris and I to get a chance at actively being parents—together.

So, here I sit, smack dab in the middle of January 1stand here’s what I know. I know I want to be a mom again. I know I want Chris to be a dad again. I know the road to get there will be bumpy, but for the good of my family I’m willing to get back into the driver’s seat. I won’t lie, I’m fearful of the journeyterrified, actually. But, I have to at least try. I didn’t think that I could survive the past 7 months, but here I sit still writing to you. This year I also want to make some changes. I want to adjust our lifestyle to make family the priority we’ve always wanted it to be—even if it can’t happen overnight. I want to take better care of myself and be a happier person for my family. Do more for others. Do my part in making our life as fulfilled as possible. Lucky for us, we have the best driving force in the world—the love for our beautiful son, Rylan.

Thank you for stopping by…and for being a part of our story so far. My best to you and yours for a happier new year.

"What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us."