Wednesday, July 2, 2014

With(out) An Older Sister

When you have an older sister that you've never held or touched, that's never cried or screamed or laughed in your presence, it's hard to understand that she was ever real.

When you have an older sister who will forever be younger than you, it's confusing to know how she fits in the family.  Or how you do.

When your older sister is just a small black and white picture next to an even smaller white box in your room that you say good night to every day, it's hard to understand she was a person.

And when you are two and your older sister is dead, all you really know is that Mommy keeps talking about this nebulous thing called "your sister Anna".    You know that baby Anna is that picture on the shelf.  And you know that for some reason that picture makes Mommy sad, because when you see Mommy cry and ask her why, she says, "Mommy is sad because she misses your sister Anna."


Having Cate understand who Anna is in our family is harder than I thought it would be.   I'm not very good at consistently saying good morning or good night to Anna's picture and ashes with Cate every day, and the other day when I asked her what her sister's name was, she couldn't tell me.  Didn't know.  Didn't truly associate the picture and any talk about Anna with Anna actually being her sister.
Yet Cate understands what it is to HAVE a sibling.   I know she does, because a few weeks ago I told her I was looking at papers that would hopefully get her a sibling (adoption paperwork).  I asked her if she'd like a brother or sister and she looked at me for several seconds, squinted her eyes just a little and then stated with confidence, "Broder!"

I hate that Anna is such a wispy, misunderstood figment for her.  My heart aches that she hasn't yet associated the name "Anna" with "sister".  I feel like I'm failing my role in making sure Anna is recognized as a valid, real member of our family.  Failing Anna, failing Cate.  Mostly I hate that Anna is such a wispy, severed part of our family.  I want Cate to claim Anna as her sister and yet don't want her to try and understand what "died" means.
Cate is a smart cookie, she grasps most concepts quickly.   If I say, "Anna died when she was a baby" or "…when she was born", I seriously think she may quickly understand the gross concept of 'dead' and become afraid she or any other baby she knows might die too.
So how do I promote the idea of having a sister who isn't physically here without introducing the concept of death?

I welcome input.

How are you other mamas doing this??

Sunday, May 11, 2014

5/12/13 Best. Mother's. Day. Ever.

Not to state the obvious, but I’ve waited a long time for this.
Thanks to my husband and my sweet girl, today was everything I ever wanted.  
Except for the girl I can’t have.  Again, obvious.
Still, it was the best Mother’s Day.  I got to sleep until 10:00 (not as glorious as it sounds because I was up at 4:00 and 6:00 and 8:00 with Cate, but I’ll still take it!!); Brad make me cinnamon french toast, turkey bacon, coffee and mimosas - AND cleaned up; gave me wonderful cards from himself and Cate (complete with her unique signature); and several hours to work outside in the sunshine pulling weeds, cleaning up the patio, fertilizing some plants, moving some others, etc.  Felt so good to be out there again knowing I had a wonderful little body and personality waiting for me inside with Daddy.   They came out to watch a few times and I was rewarded with giggles and waves and grins when I called to her from the grass.  The Best.
AND my fab husband completely surprised me with a brand new Burley biking baby trailer!  We took it out for a spin tonight and it’s super fun.  Fun for me to be “that mom” who’s (supposedly) active enough to warrant a bike trailer to haul her kids around while she gets her exercise AND cool enough to expose her kids to the outdoors and parks and picnics and all that comes with destination bike riding from time to time.   
I haven’t written here in ages, I know.  At least 100 times I’ve wanted to.  It’s a minor miracle I’m doing it now.  I don’t know if it’s my make-up, how I spend my time, or if being 44 really does mean I’m that much more tired than the Mom’s 10+ years younger than I, but I’m exhausted-amundo by the end of the day.  Blogging gets pushed off of the priority list, which is too bad, because I miss it.
Anyway.  There were teary eyes a few times this morning, as much for the girl I haven’t gotten to Mommy the last 3 years as for the glory of the girl I do, and the pure celebration that was My First Real Mother’s Day.  I didn’t go out to Anna’s bench.  Thought about it.  But there are soooooo many days I’ve done that in sadness, in melancholy, in missing her, in grief, in anger, in remembrance, to make a statement to Anyone taking note that she still matters and she’s still mine and I haven’t forgotten.   But today I didn’t want to be mad.  Or hurting and crying.   I think of Anna everyday, look at her pictures every day, wonder who she’d be every day.  Sometimes I let myself go farther and Feel.  It’s hard.  It hurts.  Today, I just wanted to... relish.  And I did.  I did, and I felt like a queen and we celebrated our beautiful and delicious Cate, who makes us laugh all the time.   She’s perfection and I’m so lucky to be her Mama.
Here’s to all my Mommy friends, may you have had a day worthy of all the work, exhaustion, trials and tribulations of parenting you’ve experiences the last year.  Here’s to all the women who want so badly to be Mommies - to living children, to any children.  I pray you get to have a Mother’s Day like mine as soon as possible.  
It doesn’t disappoint. 

1/11/13 Better, squared

I know, it’s been forever.  Same old story - I think of things I’d like to write here at least every couple of days, but if there’s an evening I would have a chance after dishes and straightening and all the responsibilities, all I want to do is NOT use my brain.  Is it because I’m 44, a new-ish mom, or both? is what it is, as the overused phrase goes.
Cate is napping now, for two more minutes, for thirty, hard to say.  So I’m pressed to convey what I really want to - quickly.  Which is...this girl makes everything else better, richer, deeper, brighter.  Going to work is rather exciting and frought a little bit with anxiety being away from her all day, my impetus to get out on time suddenly turned On, my entire mood upon leaving work dramatically altered from what it used to be.  What used to be a certain amount of drudgery, heaving myself one place to the next and sort of an overall bleakness, is now brilliant anticipation to get home to see her.  Hold her.   Glory in her.   Her squeals, smiles, uncoordinated jumping, wondering if Dad ever changed her out of her jammies and did she poop today?   A few months ago I went to a movie with a friend while Daddy stayed home with her, and was struck by how even this felt so much different, knowing I had a baby to go home to.
I know of one woman who has traveled a very similar path to ours, and she has not yet had success in bringing a child home.  I wish I could tell her that life can still be good and rich without a child.  I know it can, for some.  But I think there are others of us who truly have children as our heart’s very desire, and nothing else comes close to filling us the same way.   Maybe it’s because I appreciate her so very much.  But if anyone’s asking, I’ll say it’s because I was built to be a Mommy.  Going through life without it would have been like being a bowl without fruit.  Intact, functional, maybe even pretty, but essentially useless and taking up space.   Or maybe it’s the other analogy, the Wizard of Oz one where now life is in technicolor.  
Either way, I love it.

10/20/12 Her Gloriousness

There are many things I want to write about, many posts I’ve written in my head while feeding Cate or in the car.  But those will have to wait, as we are long past due for The Reveling.
Cate.  She is every good thing.  Her voice is by far the sweetest sound in my life, maybe of my life.  I already want a rewind button to be able to go back to the squishy lumpy uncoordinated noodle-neck tiny body of her youth.  How can she already be so very big??  She’s only 4 months old!  Yet there she is, fully into 6 month wear, long and slender as spaghetti, still managing to have plump little cellulite baby thighs.  With every new skill I think we’ll have time to soak in this phase for awhile, but the phase seems to last only hours before it has developed into something further.  There is no pause button with her - it is exhilerating, shocking, frightening, beautiful and truly amazing to watch this little human take shape.  Once again, you don’t fully understand ‘til you’ve walked the path yourself.
People ask me about her personality.  I know her but am challenged to put her into words.  She’s a happy girl.  When she’s slept well (and long enough), she wakes up calm, looking around, sqwaking, and, when she sees you, full of delicious life-changing smiles.  When she hasn’t slept long enough, she whines and cries as if someone is poking her in the back with a needle, but won’t open her eyes to see that she’s back in the world and it’s okay.  She doesn’t like car trips in the dark.  She’s not yet a Mommy or Daddy’s girl, but goes to others with curiosity and an openness to accept them.  Sometimes she’ll get a vibe that says “I’m not really okay with this person”, but for the most part, she’s good to go with the rest of the human race.  
She’s recently taken an interest in our pets.  Reaching out to touch them for the first time (and grab their fur, which they obviously adore).  She’s also exploring our faces with her hands, which WE absolutely do adore.  It feels like her way of saying she’s loves us too, that we are hers, and she can do with us what she will (which of course she can).  
She rolled over for the first time on October 19th.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I was so unequivocally revved up on Life as that afternoon.  She was a wondrous thing to watch, her surprise to find herself in a new position, her keen interest and focus in trying again, her voracity in doing it over and over as she perfected the skill - like getting right back in line for your new favorite roller coaster and familiarizing yourself with the curves.  She seemed both happy with herself and determined.  OH, it was so wild.  Giddy I was!! Unabashedly giddy.  
Watching Brad with her is pure heaven.  When she smiles at him, I’m telling you, the ice caps melt faster.  You can see his soul brighten and his body fill with delight.  His face...well, it’s everything we ever wanted for each other, let’s just say that.   He loves coming home to her, loves changing her diaper, loves the squeals of her finding her voice and her “conversations”.  The number of times I’ve heard “Honey, she’s doing _____ now!!”  It’s so fun to watch him be amazed by her.
As for me, well.... there isn’t one piece that I’m disillusioned over or am not relishing.   3 AM isn’t my favorite time of day, but I’ll take it with gratitude.  There are times when sleep simply must happen or this nearly 44 year old body won’t be able to function anymore, when I’m nauseous from fatigue.  But I’ve never been happier to be sick to my stomach.  I’m loathe to leave her when I go to work just two days a month - how pathetic yet wonderful is that?!  Brad watches her all day which is great for them both, I just...miss them!  I get next to nothing done because when she’s awake I want to interact with her; when she’s asleep I want to watch her; and when she’s eating I want to imprint it in my body and mind and heart, because nursing is my very very favorite thing and it’s going to be gone all too soon.  (Can you BELIEVE my body is sustaining her?  I can’t get over the brilliance and miraculousness of breastfeeding.  I’ve wanted to do it since I can remember, for the wonderment of it, but I couldn’t have imagined the incredulity that comes with knowing this old body that I’ve treated as if it were mine to ruin is responsible for actually giving my child the nutrients to live.  It’s The. Coolest.  (For me, not to knock anyone who has chosen not to or can’t for one reason or another.  No bones about that whatsoever.)  I can’t kiss her enough, cuddle her enough, feel her enough, HAVE her enough.  
She is our sunshine...our joy….our wonder….our completion. 

9/6/12 Feedback, Perspective

(Anna)        Equally precious….

(Cate)   ….Agonizingly different
So I just have to bring attention to this, because it feels significant.  Maybe to no one but me, but...
The emails I have received from my announcement that the website is back up and running have fallen into two distinct groups.   Most people like the zoo entry.   Then there are those who have commented on, and only on, “It’s the little things” post which refers to a certain section of Target.  These are all women who’ve had a child die.   
Interesting, don’t you think?  It just speaks to me about what people can relate to, what turns them on, and what things...don’t.  Or can’t.   
The responses from BLMs were emotional, so very genuinely happy for me, and yet full of pain at the same time.   All said they cried as they read it and I could feel the experiential recognition in their words.  One woman who also suffered infertility said she hadn’t set foot in Target since her daughter died.  
This morning I was thinking that I need to edit that post.  I started it by referring only to women who’ve lost a child.  I changed it a day or so later to people who’ve had infertility OR lost a child.  Today I realized I need to include everyone whose suffered.  Which is to say, everyone.  (If they haven’t yet, they will.  Life is like that.)  The world is a mine field to most for one reason or another.  Those whose mother has died is constantly and often unexpectedly reminded of the loss when talking to others whose mothers live, when passing the women’s clothing section (particularly the styles representing the age they were when they died or would be now), when Mother’s Day comes around, every holiday and every significant family event from which they are absent.  A woman whose son died this summer is affected by all the back-to-school hullabaloo.  Those whom have lost limbs or senses are constantly reminded of the things others can do that they can’t.   Those who have moved for whatever reason and left families behind, those who want to be one half of a loving couple but can’t find the partner to fill the other half, those who want a home or simple vacation but can’t afford one, and on and on it goes.  
Everyone’s struggle or loss is significant.  At the very least significant to them.   The world is largely insensitive and cruel to such losses.   It’s only Us that can help us, save us.  Only through loss or struggle does Humanity have meaning.   It’s what has sown my humanity, anyway.

9/5/12 ECFE

Today Cate and I went to our first Early Childhood Family Education class. 
Class was similar to the zoo post, with more Anna in it.   Translation: I cried again.   If I’d been true to myself I would’ve left the room and really let ‘er go, but that sort of thing doesn’t bode well for creating relationships with new people.  First impressions and all.  I jeopardized myself enough as it was.  The opening song was one I know well, slightly curtailed for infants.  The one where you go around the room and name each child “...Cate is here today, Cate is here today, yaaaaaaaay, Cate!”   I was a tumult of emotions.  All the zoo stuff about belonging, finally qualifying for a class like this, so grateful for Cate herself, knowing how lucky I was, etc.  But also the stark reality of the classes not taken the last 2 1/2 years.  That Anna was not here today, she was never here any day.   She never had her name spoken aloud in a circle that included her, her very existence celebrated in a silly but important little ditty.  Never will.  Struck again by how much I love her name.  Again by the great, vast enormity of the hole she left.   Wondering who she’d be, who she would have been in such a class.  And how much vitality and presence and Life there is in just a tiny human being!  I mean, they take up space in the Universe.  And her space is so very small.  So very, very quiet.
I got through the song without too much drama, though my slightly shaky voice and teary eyes were certainly noted by some, and the teacher shot me some ‘checking in on that one’ looks afterwards.   My downfall came during introductions.  Name, child’s name, any other children, where you live, where you grew up.  Well duh, the third one pretty much guaranteed me a goner.  I was maybe the 5th one to go and tears were falling before I even opened my mouth.   This morning at 5 AM I thought about this moment, knowing there was likely to be one and trying to figure out how much to say, weighing the benefits of letting people know that much at first blush versus the risk of being labeled “Damaged/A drama queen/Too much baggage to handle”.   Turns out the format helped out with that (limiting history to bare skeletal facts), but I still gushed out a little background and disclaimer - “I totally gonna cry.  I’m Julie, this is Cate, I DO have another child, she died at birth. [collective gasps]  Her name is Anna, she was born 2 years ago.  You’re going to see me cry a lot, probably.  It comes unexpectedly.  [two beats of silence]”, turning to the girl behind me who grew up in near me, trying to disarm the shock and discomfort and make like normal people making a normal superficial connection.  
The teacher handled it well, thanking me for sharing and ensuring she (and therefore everyone else) had Anna’s name right, acknowledging that this information was an important part of me.
The women next to me seemed to be a little skittish after the fact, but settled down when I didn’t talk about it any more nor cry further.  I think I scared some of them away (though I expect most will come around if The Topic doesn’t keep surfacing) and... no one mentioned it or asked about Anna for the duration of the class.  I’d been warned that ECFE with “normal” women could be challenging for that reason.  That they probably hadn’t experienced anything close and wouldn’t know what to do with it (true enough), that complaints of motherhood from women who hadn’t struggled to get pregnant or hadn’t had any traumas could be infuriating to listen to (not today, at least).  
Anyway, I think there are a couple of women I might be able to create an ongoing relationship with.  We’ll see.  But that's the reason I signed up, and I’m quite pleased with the class in that aspect.  A relief, since the class is out of my comfort zone.  I quite prefer to hermit it up in my house.  Not proud of it, nor do I think it’s good for me, but it is what it is.  Going out on the limb paid off in my opinion, which is g-r-e-a-t.   Now I just have to keep the Anna stuff in check so as not to make myself a pariah.

9/3/12 It's The Little Things

When you’re fighting infertility, and/or when your child dies, the world you once knew becomes a mine field.   In the beginning, when you’re unfamiliar with the territory, many many explosions occur.   Over time you know where to step, where not to go, areas to steer clear of, how to tread lightly. 
So it is with Target.
A few weeks ago I stood in between two aisles of the baby section and cried.   I think one had toilet training seats and the other had teething rings and formula and first foods.  How many times I have looked the other way going past those aisles (men’s underwear and t-shirts became intensely interesting).  How many times I forced myself to look but could hardly breathe.  How many times I was just so sad.   
Now I cried because all those things finally belonged to me.   We would be in the market for Bumbo seats and pureed green beans and those tiny plastic toilets.  I could actually shop those aisles and take things off the shelf,  carry them like trophies to the checkout counter.   

9/2/12 Bonafide

So on August 17th, I went to the zoo.
That is to say, I was invited to the zoo.  For the first time.  It was a huge deal.
You see I haven’t been to the zoo before because, well, what occasion would I have had to go?   The night before I had gotten together with the women of my infant loss group, all of whom have now gone on to have another child after the one they lost (myself and one other gal were the last to ‘go’, with the other woman giving birth to her daughter 10 days after Cate was born - woohoo!)   Another of the women I also work with.   She mentioned at the end of the evening that a bunch of women from work were going to the zoo tomorrow and I should come!  Meeting around 9:30, they’d be there ‘til noon or so.  
Never before had I been invited to such a gathering - I didn’t belong.  Or more justly put, I wasn’t a Mom with a living child.  They were.  It occurred to me that such gatherings probably happened all the time, but I was on the other side of the curtain, sheltered against them.   I mean, I know people with kids get together and do stuff, use each other for babysitters on a moment’s notice, plan outings... I just wasn’t aware my co-workerswere doing it.  
So very casually she invited me.   So momentous was the invitation.
I didn’t even really get it myself until I drove past the entrance and started to tear up as I drove around the park, realizing I had no idea how this worked, where the entrance was, how parking worked, and that I - had - never - been - to - the - zoo before.  I’ve driven by it hundreds of times!  Seen umpteen pictures of friend’s kids there.  It dawned on me that I feel like the zoo is old hat because I live so close and I hear about it so often.  Only when I entered the grounds did I realize it was foreign.  
I was barely holding it together as I walked up to buy our entrance tickets.   It was a beautiful morning.   I was going to meet friends at the zoo.  I had a stroller.  With a car seat.  With a baby in it.  Couldn’t everyone sense this was a glorious occasion?  Couldn’t everyone tell I was no ordinary lady and this was no ordinary baby and this was no ordinary visit to the zoo?   Couldn’t they feel the energy and emotion of it?!  No one indicated they did.  It was ho-hum and something-to-keep-the-kids-entertained and stress-about-keeping-kids-in-check all around me.   
Not surprisingly, I went straight for the membership upon seeing it was $18 for an adult to enter.  $18 every time I came here?!   I’d be coming here a lot now, right?  Six times in a year and the membership fee would pay off!  Plus I could bring a friend for free.  Financially a sound decision.  (No mind that Cate won’t have any interest in the zoo for at least another year, if not two.)
Mostly though...there’s The Card.   The Card means I’m a bonafide mother.  I have a child to take to the zoo.  See?  I’m a member.  That’s how much I go, that’s how much of a right I have to go, that’s how many social excursions I’ll have there, that’s how many memories will be made there.  Membership worthy attendance.
Fifty feet past the entrance gate I called Brad in full-on tears.  “Guess where I am?!?”, as if he could possibly guess.  I hadn’t told him I’d been invited.   The zoo wouldn’t enter his brain any more than would the Taj Mahal.  He was in a meeting but he stayed on the phone due to the great emotion in my voice...I wish he’d been there to share This Moment.  But then I think I’ll get to have Another Moment, the one where we go to the zoo as a family.  A Family!!!!! 
A great day by all accounts.   Cate was oblivious, sleeping through the whole thing.  

I don’t care.  I’ll hold the glory for both of us.  

7/15/12 She's here

Cate arrived, 38 weeks, planned c-section.    And she is spectacular.  

Brad and I barely slept the night before; had my counselor, very good friend & support group leader in the pre-op room with soothing music and a massage therapist (seriously - a hospital service!); my counselor who is also an RN held my hand through the entire procedure in the OR and monitored myself, Cate, and the medical staff for status and medical expertise as needed (I. Love. Her.); and other than an epidural that went up too high such that I had trouble breathing or feeling my arms, all went fine.

Except our relief was short-lived.  Cate was on my chest for a few minutes, Brad held her for several, and then she was off to the nursery to be evaluated just after we arrived to our postpartum room.  Brad went with.  They were gone a long time.  And then the RN came back to tell me they went to the special care nursery.   10 minutes later Brad returns.  WITHOUT HER.  And proceeds to tell me they're taking her to the NICU as a precaution because her O2 sats were only 80%.

It only gets worse from there.  She was in the NICU 9 days, the first three having a really hard time, improving the last 6.  She had a feeding tube but was never ventilated (thank god).  We became familiar with the rhythm of the NICU, what all the bells and alarms meant.  We lived and breathed by the numbers on the monitor telling us her respiratory rate, her heart rate, her O2 level.  We got scared for good reason a few times.  We tried desperately to believe when they told us she would be okay.  I could not would not go home without my daughter and stayed at the hospital 24/7.  

And she came through, she's okay, and we are home.  It was not the initial glory that we'd hoped for, welcoming our living child, but you might remember I posted awhile back that a NICU stay would be okay (as would, ironically, a feeding tube but hoped to stay away from intubation) as long as we got to keep her and she would be fine.  So…we got that.  And we are just so      so      so very relieved to have brought this living perfection home.

We are gloriously busy with her, sleep deprived and all that comes with newborn parenting.   Loving it, ever aware of how lucky we are to have her.

Welcome, most precious girl.

5/30/12 Emily Turns One

A year ago today Emily was born, though we didn’t know about her until the next day and didn’t take her home until her 10th day.  Still...this date weighs heavily.  I know it’s not about me at all - it’s about her first breaths of oxygen and her mother’s experience with pregnancy and labor and all the rest.  
But it was almost us, celebrating her first year of life with close friends and messy cake and probably tears of overwhelm.  Almost us, with every milestone and memory and smile between last July 2nd now.   Almost us.
Not one single day has passed since we said goodbye that I have not thought of her.  Many in which I’ve looked at her pictures or watched the few videos we have - probably too many times.   We have so many more pictures of her than of Anna, so many more moments...   I love that and I hate that.  Love that we had the time to discover ourselves as parents, to learn and worry and revel in her.  Hate that our best parenting memories are of someone who isn’t and never legally got to be our daughter.   I hate that the only “real parenting” we’ve gotten to do is for someone who was never really ours and in the end, just a silky dream that someone else gets to play out.   
It kind of runs in the same vein as the ‘feeling guilty for giving the living child all the love and attention and memories that we can’t give Anna’.  Like we’re cheating Anna and leaving her in the dust in favor of this breathing, moving child (for when we had Anna, for what we’ll hopefully have with Hilamina).   I KNOW it’s Reality and I KNOW there’s no other way and I KNOW... I know.   But it still feels inherently wrong.   
My favorite baby memories are of Emily, my heart is broken for not having either of them, I’m angry that Anna gets the very shortest end of the stick.   
Anyway... thinking of you especially today, Emily.

5/25/12 Recitals, Otis' mama

In fairness to all the posts detailing the mental mayhem, our Friday appointment was blessedly peaceful.   Hilamina started right off with deep practice breathing and we were done with our biophysical in 5 minutes or less.  The NST showed her heart rate now in the low 140s (compared to low 120s Tuesday).  Honestly.  I still don’t think she’s showing all the accelerations at a 15 beat differential, but she’s apparently doing well enough to satisfy the doctor.  One of my shorter appointments, at 45 minutes.   Now we just need to keep doing that until Brad gets back from Scotland!  (He leaves Thursday night, not to return ‘til Sunday June 10th.  Ugh.)

So last Saturday Brad and I went to see one of our nieces perform in a dance recital.  The recital was about 2 hours long with some 30+ performances by groups ranging in age from 3 to 18.  Obviously, the 3 years olds stole the show.  I think the whole thing opened with a group of girls maybe 6-8 years of age?  Within 2 minutes tears were falling...we’ll never see Anna dance.  Never see her on stage, never know if she would be the one stock still in stage fright or reveling in the limelight, the one who knows every move or the one who doesn’t take her eyes of her neighbor, always a half-beat behind.  Several times during the course of the show tears came.  I hope Hilamina will have the chance to dance.  More accurately, I hope she lives and has the chance do everything Anna doesn’t.  What hit home once again, sitting there imagining Hilamina up on stage, was that no matter what she gets to do, no matter what joy we’ll have in her every experience and funny comment and priceless that each one will be bittersweet for having missed them with Anna.  I’d like to think that won’t always be true, that there can be purity in our delight in Hilamina - but it’s hard to imagine.  We’ll see.  

This week I was reading some other BLM posts, and came across this from “Hope, Interrupted”.   This momma lost her firstborn son Otis in September 2010 and now has Owen, 8 months old.  Her words so capture my anticipated feelings about this matter, I can’t help but post some of them here.

Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died.  It makes it so incredibly much harder.  Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis.  Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis.  The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis.  I wrote it a while back - Owen grows and surprises and is ever changing.  As is my love for him.  Otis is frozen in time.  Forever a newborn.  Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in.  Forever with his head full of hair combed just so.  With his arm draped across his body just so.  The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was.  My love for him is still fierce, still all encompassing, and, sure, it grows and changes and evolves - but HE doesn't.  And this kills me.

Since her post was inspired by a project another BLM put out there regarding writing “Where We Are Now” and comparing our journey to the year before, she then went on to talk about being “better”.  

So it's interesting.  In many ways I would say OF COURSE I am "better" here at 20 months than I was last year at 8 months.  My day to day operations do not shout out "MY SON DIED!" ... I work part time, I raise Owen, I do not cry daily, probably not even weekly, I laugh...I giggle, I function.

But, this idea that "of course" I'm better, I can't say it with much conviction... I think I deluded myself into thinking (even though I logically knew otherwise and had also heard from enough blms on "the other side of the rainbow" that it wasn't going to magically make it all better) that somehow having a living baby to bring home would change it significantly.

And it has, yes.  And it hasn't.

It's like my life has split yet again.  There is now the me that operates as Owen's mama - full of love, fierce protective instincts, joy, even, dare I say it, a sense of peace.  And then there is the me that is hidden away in a drawer, along with a lock of the finest, most lush, beautiful brown baby hair that I will ever touch.  In a box, tied with a bow, along with prints of handprints and footprints ...  (I was unable to take Owen's hand and footprints when he was born because doing so reminded me too much of Otis.  It felt like a betrayal to take them of my living, breathing baby - when that is all Otis could give me, and Owen will be giving me mementos for (hopefully) many many many years to come.)  I have yet to be able to reconcile these two mamas into one.

That’s how it feels, already.  In the anticipation of this living baby, it’s hard to reconcile both worlds - the living and the dead and being a Mom to both.  Anna’s absence makes her no less wanted, no less loved, no less thought about.   Her lock of hair, ashes, “mementos”, the cards we received when she died and on her birthdays...the 99 pictures we have of her (so many looking so similar)...they are sacred.  The most Real she will ever be, the physical proof that she existed and was important.  Frozen in time, forever a newborn.  (Much as Emily will always be 1 month old to us, despite the fact she turns one on Wednesday.)   I think that’s what hurts already - doing things to make Hilamina’s life special and happy and feeling guilty I can’t do more for Anna.  

How I wish we could do the same for Anna. 

5/23/12 Running the Mental Marathon

In the spirit of Chandler Bing, “Could this BE any more harrowing?”
To which the answer would be, “Yes.”  Because certainly we are in pretty good shape here - no overt issues like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia or high blood pressure or physical defects in the baby.  But G---O---D this is exhausting!!   This constant level of anxiety punctuated by heightened levels brought on by perceiving less movement or less-than-stellar test results or your mind taking you to the bad places despite yourself.   More and more I wonder how much longer I can keep wearing my sanity hat before it falls off - or before I eat it.  
Today we met with the gal who runs our support group (also a nurse at the hospital at which we’re delivering) to talk about our birth plan and have her lay the groundwork for some key pieces that would help Brad and I get through it with as much grace and little trauma as possible.   Things like being able to have one arm free during the operation instead of strapped down like Jesus on the cross, like having Hilamina monitored as consistently as possible right up to the time they have to make the cut, and like being able to wear an oxygen mask (because for some reason the tactile sensation of it anchored me when I had Anna, and mentally I’ll know I’m getting extra air when it already feels like I’m not getting enough just thinking about the whole procedure).   She brought up some interesting thoughts and we’re so grateful to have her supporting and guiding us through these next weeks.
After this meeting Brad stayed for the OB appointment and tests.  Hilamina has always passed her biophysical, with the longest wait for practice breathing being 20 minutes (last Friday).  Today, she got all other points for movement and amniotic fluid in the first few minutes.  But she never did get practice breathing.  Which in and of itself does not wig me out because I know they don’t do it all the time, I know it’s the most common part to fail, and she’s been good about this up ‘til today.  Last Tuesday she was demonstrating really deep breathing right off, so having the other extreme doesn’t seem wildly scary given her history thus far.
But then the first 20-30 minutes of her NST were...bad.  Bad to us at least.  Which is bad for our psyches and causes our anxiety levels to rise and our minds to begin traveling to the towns of “What If?” and “What’s Coming?” - neither of which are favorable tourist destinations.   To start with her base heart rate the last few weeks as been in the low 130s.  Today it was low 120s (with normal being 120-160 and at least one physician stating a couple weeks ago ‘if it goes below 120 then we’ll start paying more attention’).  It dipped into the teens several times and a few times as low as 104, 109....which is a notable difference when just listening to it much less reading the numbers.  And for a period of several minutes the readout was largely flat at the 120 mark...the thing the doctors don’t want to see.  Heart rate variability is the name of the game with NSTs, and flat ain’t no good, Farmer Joe.  (Neither are decelerations, but apparently those dips into the 105 range weren’t enough to set off the doctor’s alarms.)  So for 30-40 minutes Brad and I are sitting there trying not to let panic rise, trying not to let anxiety win, trying to stay neutral until the doc came in to give us his verdict.  And failing more and more as time wore on.   When Hilamina hit 104 I said “Just admit me overnight already” and when the nurse came in and acknowledged we were probably stressing out but that she wasn’t necessarily worried at this point I started to cry because it’s almost more upsetting to hear a medical professional say they’re not worried when WE are so worried!!  Like something’s wrong and no one’s going to do anything - when the rational person would say, “Oh great!  Nothing to be concerned about then.”  But it takes awhile for us to hear that and let it sink in - plus we need an explanation as to why there’s nothing to be (truly) concerned about.  
I ended up being on the monitor for an hour and twenty minutes including the time the doctor came in to talk to us.  During that time she had a better run where her heart rate picked up a bit overall and definitely showed more variability, to the point the doctor deemed her reactive enough to receive a total appointment score of 8/10 (typical of her, though usually it’s the NST that brings her down 2 points, not the breathing).  If she’d not come around on the NST, it would have been 6/10 and I would have been coming back tomorrow to do it all again.
So after 4 hours at the hospital and a solid 45 minutes or so of high anxiety, both Brad and I were ready to take a little brain vacation.  Mine comes in the form of sitting outside in our backyard (and blogging), his in the form of a joining me outside but with the benefit of a beer.  :)  
5 weeks to go.

5/22/12 OR

As in, Operating Room.
I feel like so much is happening recently, I can’t keep up.  Not inside, not on this blog.  Last night I got somewhere between 3-5 hours of sleep and am really tired, but again mind and body betray me.  The mind can’t stop going over what has been and what’s coming, the body keeps my esophageal sphincter weak and my legs overactive.  Between them, nighttime seems to have become the enemy.  I’ve become an excellent daytime napper, when I get the chance.
So I’ll start with the present and go backwards.  Tonight Brad and I got a tour of the Labor & Delivery and post-partum areas of the hospital at which we plan to deliver.  The same one we’ve been attending Infant Loss and Pregnancy After Loss support groups at since February 2010 (save 9 months or so between the two groups).  The woman that heads up both of those organized the tour for us as we head into the home stretch here.  Envisioning being back in the OR has instantly brought me to tears nearly every time I think about it, so we figured a desensitization visit might be in order.  We were right.
We’d thought the tour might happen tomorrow, or if the OR was booked for surgeries maybe after group tonight, but not the minute we got there.  So despite ourselves it felt sudden and we were unprepared.  No sooner did she say she was going to take us up there than I was cracking.  She hooked us up with and L&D nurse to take us around and answer questions, and tears were falling before we even walked into that damn OR room.  Sterile, quiet, the operating table laid with fresh linens and pads with big lights hanging above, the clock on the wall to the right, the baby ‘receiver’ and warmer on the left, the enormous machine for vitals and ventilation/oxygen and anesthetic needs at the head of the table.  So Brad would be on my left again, but at least this time the clock won’t be above him (so vividly do I recall looking at it reading 12:04 or something and realizing we hadn’t seen Anna yet, it had been a long time, we didn’t really know anything).  The nurse informed us that no one will be allowed in the OR with me until the epidural is administered and taken effect, the curtain raised, ready to cut.  Which feels like I’m being thrown over the cliff without a parachute.  It’s from the moment of being sat up for the epidural to the few minutes after birth that are going to be A Living Nightmare, a surreal re-creation of a Hell we didn’t know was coming and I’m going to have to do most of it alone.  
The part about undergoing the procedure I’d been responding to emotionally for some time - what caught me off guard was how terrifying the receiving apparatus for the baby would be.  I didn’t see Anna laying on it in the OR, but it was what she was on when I was brought to her in the special care nursery.  So......still.   So flat against that flat surface covered in hospital baby blankets of pink and blue stripes.  No wiggle, no wriggle.  Almost like she were one with it’s lifelessness.  The silhouette of her brown hair on her perfect head, her small shoulders, her little arm that the doctor lifted and let drop to show me she was nonresponsive and flaccid.  I feel like I never saw her from more than a few inches away because aside from that view at the top of her head, where she was a foot or two away, she was on my chest, next to my face - I never really saw all of her from afar to get a sense of her true size.  She’s smallest to me just in that view of the top of her head and shoulders and tiny little arm.
So what if this baby isn’t wriggling, isn’t awkwardly moving arms and legs and feeling its full range of movement out in the world when I see it from the operating table?  What if there’s a crowd of people again working in relative tense silence?  The ‘bed’ that received our daughter, the ‘bed’ on which they tried to resuscitate her, the ‘bed’ on which they stopped working on her.  That bed scares me to the depths of my ability to describe it.
The nurse let us have several minutes in there alone to process, cry, talk.  Which was good.   I’m glad we did it, but right now the room is seared in my brain - the whole room, not just a snippet of a perspective like Anna’s OR.  Trying to get a handle on the fear associated with it is going to be one of my bigger challenges over the next few weeks.  I’m trying to remember the last thing I dreaded as much as I dread that hour or two around and within the OR.  I’m sure it was Anna’s memorial, coming home without her, etc.  But all that was cloaked in the surrealism and horror of the her death.   When have I felt similarly before that?   I feel like I need to know so I can grab onto and know that I got through it (and maybe it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be).   So it can anchor me.  But right now everything dreaded before that night with Anna is a blank.  
The OR is the big black monster that awaits at the end of a dark hall in every horror flick, the Thing that awaits in a musty basement, the Force that stalks you and attacks a split second after you instinctively realize you’re in trouble in an otherwise perfectly safe situation.  
We’re gonna need some Big Help in the OR. 

5/17/12 Mother's Day in Review

Third Mother’s Day without Anna, already.  THIRD.  How can it feel like she just slipped through our fingers not long ago and still be the THIRD of anything?   Two years ago we were in Italy trying to get the hell outta here for Mother’s Day (though of course we took her with us despite ourselves).   Last year I think I worked at the hospital.  This year was a quiet, exceptionally beautiful spring day at home.  We had my close friend Sarah and her family over for a couple hours for brunch and to plant her eldest daughter’s “garden” in our backyard.  (A little tradition we started last year and great fun for Brad and I - this now 3-year-old darling gets a little section of our garden as her very own, with all produce and bounty to be enjoyed by her.  I think the planting and harvesting are the only things that really register any excitement at this point, but Brad and I get a lot out of knowing we have something special that she enjoys.  She’s SO much fun.)
My amazing husband was at his best.  He prepped the house, the yard, the brunch, even mopped the floor and did some vacuuming before I even got out of bed.   He got out the hammock for me to enjoy the blue sky and dancing leaves that afternoon.  He made me dinner. He loves me, and I’m the luckiest girl in the world to have him.  (Other women think they’ve got the corner on the Good Man market, and I know there are others good men out there.  Still.  I’ll always believe Brad is just a little bit shinier than they are.)  
I thought I would go out to the meadow to spend some time at Anna’s bench, but I didn’t.  I thought about it several times, and it wasn’t until the next day that I was able to identify why I didn’t.  I would’ve gotten angry.   Bitter, enraged, frustrated...beside myself.   At home, though, I was as content - and safe - as I could possibly be that day.  So I rather subconsciously decided to not go to the Emotional Well that day after all.   (The decision not to go to the meadow was probably also influenced by my previously mentioned primary focus on the well-being of Hilamina.  Wailing and hitting maybe not so good for the babe.  Calm and quiet the order of the day.)
So, it sucked because it sucks, being the mother of a dead child on Mother’s Day.   But it was also lovely - exceedingly supported by the amazing weather, a luscious backyard, good friends, and my husband.   Aside from Anna, what more could I want?
On Tuesday I dared read the Mother’s Day entries of other BLM blogs, and was again struck by the depth and truth of these women’s experiences, their ability to be raw and real and vulnerable.  And how much we trust each other with those feelings and experiences.  Brooke posted about the origin of Mother’s Day which was fantastic and much more relatable than the Hallmark version we know now.   Renel talked about how her living son and husband tried to make the day special and how she tried to participate and enjoy, but that her heart wasn’t in it and tears were shed several times throughout the day - how confusing it is to grieve for what isn’t and be grateful for what is at the same time.   SG had a day similar to mine - nice to know I was in good company, taking solace in the safety of home and not having To Do anything to make the day memorable when all you really want is for the whole day not to exist at all.   And some bloggers were irreverent to all the smug moms expecting breakfast in bed, flowers, and home-made cards... you know, all the things we want but can’t have so we cast the Evil Eye on them for being so greedy as to expect all those bonuses when they already have the biggest bonus of all, every day, 24/7.  (We’re not truly bitches, just suffering women standing together, finding dark humor in dark situation.)  Again I refer you to these brave women’s blogs.  They give as much wisdom and insight into my own experience as I do.

5/16/12 Going Subterranean

So today we hit week 32, and I’ve noticed a change in me.  At least a change from the few weeks prior when I was suddenly present and energetic enough to post a few entries here.  
Before I get to that - for the record, Brad and I have not decided on a name yet.  Between the two of us we have been calling her Hilamina (hill-uh-mEE-nuh) as a female reference to Brad’s late father.   With another friend she is “Lellie”, since that’s what her 3 year old daughter decided to name our girl (after all, she gets to name all her dolls, why not our baby - her newest anticipated doll?).
Anyway, up until yesterday Hilamina was not passing her nonstress tests (NSTs) which is a measure of heartrate acceleration in response to her movement in the womb.  It’s also an indication of adequate oxygenation through the placenta and umbilical cord.  Technically fetii are not expected to pass until 32 weeks, but she was deemed non-reactive last week which sent up a cautionary flag and resulted in a few more tests and appointments.  All other indicators are good though, and as I said, yesterday she passed.  (I’ll still feel better when we get a few more “Pass” scores under our belt, but still.  Good news is good news.)
But having the caution flag temporarily raised changed my whole perspective and focus for the rest of this pregnancy.   The weekend before Mother’s Day I was super-emotional over: thinking about spending time in the meadow at Anna’s bench to commemorate the day (HELL of a way to be a mother); the fact that Emily’s first b-day is approaching (May 30th) and how much we’ve missed, how happy and excited her family must be in anticipation of celebrating it, and how sad I still am about everything around Emily; that I’m still terrified something will happen with this baby and we either won’t get to have her either or something will go terribly wrong; and lack of sleep - insomnia, restless legs, reflux, a sometimes-active baby that you can’t escape and a snoring husband results in something less than lengthy peaceful slumber.  That Monday night I was a crying mess.  Tuesday was the NST that raised caution and suddenly all those other pieces were distant.  The only thing I had room for was This Baby, here and now.
And ever since, the idea that maybe we won’t get to 38 weeks, maybe she’ll need to come earlier for whatever reason, now it’s not about my PTSD in the OR but about getting her here as safely as possible, whatever that looks like.  If it’s NICU time, that’s okay.  If we can stay away from intubation, excellent (I have a horrible time with trachs and ventilators based on my own phobia of suffocating/choking/drowning).   If we have to do feeding tubes, so be it.  Let’s just have her healthy enough to avoid intraventricular hemorrhage (relatively common in preemies), brain damage, digestive/intestinal complications, etc.  I researched outcomes for babies born at 31, 32 and 34 weeks.  I researched feeding and what I would need to do to provide breastmilk and give the best chance for still being able to breastfeed.   And everything else in life very quickly paled in comparison to WHATEVER I NEED TO DO to keep her in there safely as long as possible.   Not that I’ve been exercising or even doing anything considered active this pregnancy, but suddenly even the everyday stuff could be let go in favor of resting and monitoring movement and tuning into whatever intuition I may have going for me.  It’s no longer about getting to the end but about getting as far as we can with her intact.  
The side effect of all that is having next to zero room in my psyche for anything but her.  I can go through the motions of everyday stuff.  I can look normal and functional, but spend any time observing and you’ll see I’m not so much really here.  I’ve had no attention span to email, post, write much-needed thank you notes, buy gifts for close friends and my goddaughter in recognition of special events in their lives, figure out how to support this blog with a new web host, and on and on and on.   All things I technically have a good bit of time for and should get done while I can.  But I can’t.  I’m spacey and disjointed.  My mind feels numb to anything but this pregnancy.  Which makes for great conversation, let me tell you.  Brad is loving it.  Or not.  (But last week was a wake-up call for him too, so he tolerates me.  He’s a very, very tolerant man, that one.  Takes one, to marry a girl like me!)
My social capabilities also suffer dramatically - phone calls, one-to-one visits, seeking or accepting social interaction - all ignored or put off or simply...observed.  
All this I’ve decided to term “Going subterranean”.  I’m deep down under, focused on just one thing, you just can’t tell by looking at me.
Now.  Since she passed her NST yesterday, there is some breathing room - hence, I’m able to write this!  I can come up to the surface - enough - to do this.  
So fair warning to you all.  If I’m incommunicado, you know I’ve gone subterranean.  No need for intervention, just understanding.  I just need to be there until circumstances allow for surfacing again.

5/1/12 Evelynn

Today I learned that another baby loss mom lost her second child at 36 weeks.  
Again.  It happened again.  
This news sent me reeling, as it has for every other BLM I know per their blogs.  Horror, shock, the all too familiar first-hand knowledge of what this couple is feeling now.  And selfishly, renewed powerful fear that this could be us, too.  Again.  
I went to this woman’s blog, read her second to last entry detailing her latest visit to the perinatologist, her anticipation at meeting her child in just 7 days at the scheduled 37 week C-section.  All the details I and other moms are getting at their appointments.  The next (and latest) post simply says how much they love their baby girl, how much her two days on earth touched their lives, and included a picture of this sincerely beautiful plump little baby with shocks of dark hair and rosy red lips.   Looking perfectly gorgeous except you know she’s not breathing...that this family will have to bury that sweet body.   Again.
Everyone says it won’t happen again, statistically speaking it’s highly unlikely, that this is a different baby, a different time.  Yeah.  But see?  It CAN happen again.  It DOES happen again.  Statistics be damned - when you’re the one that falls into ‘highly unlikely’, statistics only serve to hurt you further.  
So today, and probably tomorrow and the next day and the next, my heart and mind is with this devastated family.  May they survive intact, somehow.  May Brad and I and the other pregnant BLMs I’ve met online be spared this agony, please god, please.
And if you have a moment, take one to gather this family in your spiritual arms and hold them close.  Honor their little Evelynn.

4/27/12 Tidbits

  1. 1) I finished Anna’s birth story within this website last weekend.  It’s only taken 2 years and nearly 5 months to get it in black and white.   Given how much I wanted to document every part of that night, those first days and’s stunning to me how powerful is the psyche that has stopped me from going there all this time.   
  2. 2)At my last perinatal appointment we started the now weekly biophysical and non-stress tests (NST).  The biophysical entails an ultrasound where, in 30 minutes or less, the baby needs to demonstrate  three movements, demonstrate tone three times (like flexing muscles), and practice breathing twice for thirty seconds each time.  Amniotic fluid level is also checked, which of course has been a sticking point for me this whole pregnancy, given that lack of amniotic fluid is what ultimately led to Anna’s demise.  Each of those four elements contribute 2 points to the overall score, with the NST also being worth two points.  So a perfect score is 10.   We got an 8 in the biophysical, but I think we failed the NST (where they want to see acceleration of heart rate by 15 beats twice in 15 minutes).  They didn’t come right out and say she failed, but that 29 weeks early for babies to do this routinely and getting a baseline is the important thing at this point (easy for them to say.  I just want it to all be perfect).   ANYWAY, the point of writing this event was the comment made by the ultrasound tech.   She said my fluid level was 13.5.  When I asked about variability in measurements, since it was 16 last week, she said it can vary based upon the babies position but that 13.5 was just great, but a measurement such as 2 is critical.  I explained (for the second time, as she’d done our 20 week u/s too but I’m sure she doesn’t remember) that amniotic fluid was high on my radar as that was the problem with my first child - in fact, a measurement of 2 the day we went to be induced.  She asked, “How far along were you when it got low?”   “A day shy of 39 weeks,” I replied.  “Oh, well that’s good, that was nearly full term then.”   HONESTLY.   Can they not put a note on my chart that says my first baby DIED?!?  Because her tone indicated she thinks we have a child at home and while I’m being monitored for safety, that maybe this is overkill.   Drives me crazy.  I don’t want to have to explain to the people caring for me and this baby WHY I’m paranoid and why we need close monitoring.  It’s my medical history.  KNOW it if you’re a medical person who’s going to work with me!!   (I know this is not unique to me - one of by blogging friends just this week had more-or-less the same thing occur, and the couple who just had their baby had to explain to the maternity staff that their first child died - labor and delivery staff were all up on it, but maternity staff oblivious.  It’s TOUGH answering questions about the child at home when there ISN’T ONE.)
  3. 3)I find I like to look at pictures of Emily more often than of Anna.  Anna’s fill me anxiety, sorrow, fear, mourning, urgency, hollowness, achiness.   Emily’s I look at with some anger but mostly with a sweetness.  Brad’s face as he held her after successfully changing her diaper and clothes, my parents faces, her different expressions.  We are happier in the pictures with Emily.  We have more pictures of her (about 400 more, to be exact).  But I feel guilty when I look at hers and not Anna’s.  
  4. 4)I’ve gained 25 pounds already!  Same amount I’d gained during my whole pregnancy with Anna.  Could be tougher shedding the weight this time ‘round.  Just sayin’.
  5. 5)I haven’t taken a single picture of my belly this pregnancy - I marvel a bit at the other BLMs that have.  It’s a show of confidence, optimism, claiming and honoring this baby, of normalcy.  I’m warming to the idea as I warm to the idea it might work out this time, and that this little one will want to see herself in that way.  To know she was anticipated (somethingnormal for her in a pregnancy that has felt anything but normal.  Poor thing.)
  6. 6)I want to take a photography class so I can take gorgeous pictures of this baby.   Brad and I bought a nice camera before Anna was born specifically for that purpose.  As much as I’ve been avoiding preparation, I’d better get a move-on for that one!
  7. 7)No.  No names yet.  Warming up to claiming that arena too though.

4/26/12 Dichotomy

Tonight I was having yet another snack when I looked down at the kitchen counter to see a flyer for the 2nd Annual Walk to Remember.  It’s an event designed to be a tribute to loved ones lost, particularly children, to be held at an arboretum housing a Christmas Box Angel (apparently there are roughly 100 of these in the U.S, “[standing as] a symbol of hope and healing for all parents and families who have experienced the death of a child of any age.”)  Alongside the flyer was a magazine open to an article I’d been reading about how babies tend to enjoy the foods Mom ate in utero or in the first 3 months of breastfeeding. 
The child that died...the child that’s living.  Remembering...anticipating.  Keeping one alive in spirit...the other in body.
It struck me how perverse this was, this flyer next to this article.  In many ways it nearly makes me sick to my stomach.  The Reality of it.  That THIS is and will forever be our Reality.   (At least I hope so, because that would mean this child lives.)   There is no changing what happened with Anna.  We will always have to balance both the living and the dead - in just this way, too.  Finding ways to honor and acknowledge Anna as a beloved member of our family, while in the next breath preparing and caring for the family members that are living.   
This realization has hit home in the last week or so.   For over 2 years now Anna has had full reign of our hearts and minds, she could take up as much room as she pleased (or, let’s face it, as we pleased).   With the arrival of this baby, we’ll have to find a different sort of space for her.  Which has been really hard to think about.  Lots of tears, even some from Brad.  Sooner than later it won’t be ‘the girls’ room anymore.  Within the next 2-3 years Anna will probably have to leave her room - and where will she go?  It’s been so easy and natural to keep her ashes, her things, Her, in the room designed for her.  But this little girl won’t likely want to share a room with her dead sibling forever.   The idea of “sticking Anna somewhere else” in the house is enough to bring forth great sobs and drive me to my figurative knees.  Where should she go?  The shelves in the living room?  The top of our dresser?  The drawer of my nightstand?  Like she’s a sentimental object we don’t want to get rid of?   I mean, it’s her ashes.  I suppose we could bury or spread them like most people do.  It’s just...I don’t think either of us can bear the thought yet that she’s not as close to us as possible.  It’s like I said to my counselor recently - Brad and I have not yet given her back to God.  I don’t know if or when we will.  
Then there’s the photo montage from NILMDTS that we used at her memorial, the birth announcement my mother made, clothes that will always be only hers, all the cards we received when she died and on her first birthday, leftover bracelets and buttons, etc.  Stuff.  That will remain hers alone.   Not alot, but enough.  To pack it all away in a plastic box the same way we do with our winter/summer clothes feels mundane and therefore horribly wrong.  And yet, what else is there to do?  It’s this kind of thing that will make every significant event bittersweet.  Every holiday.  Every first day of school.  Every first this new baby has, for that matter.   The joy in the living, the heartache for the dead.  
The trick for us as parents is to care first and foremost for this living child, make sure she doesn’t feel she’s competing in love and attention with a sainted dead sister.  Making sure she’s our number one priority and that she knows it.  Finding ways to honor Anna without threatening her.  Things as simple as not having an Easter basket for both girls but only for the living child - picking out a special egg for Anna instead.  That might seem obvious but you know what?  It’s not, always.  I think because we’ve had the luxury of giving Anna all the ‘attention’.   Changing that, finding Anna’s rightful place within the family - within us as her parents, that’s going to be its own lifelong journey.