Sunday, April 27, 2014

12/25/10 F *** Christmas

Eeew.   Eeew, eew, eew!!    Today has sucked the big one, can we just say.
Again and again and again, it’s the days you don’t anticipate.   ‘How could you not anticipate Christmas, you nimrods?!’, one might justifiably ask.   I can only say I thought Christmas would pale in comparison to Anna’s birthday in such a way it would almost be a non-event.   Not so, as it turns out.  In so much mental prep for her birthday (subconsciously for months then intensely for a couple of weeks), there was no prep whatsoever for Christmas.   Somehow all I thought about was getting through last night.  Stupid!!!
I don’t think it was even 30 minutes before both Brad and I were cranky as hell this morning.   Started out normal enough, but quickly became messy as my folks skyped my brother’s house to have a little cyber-Christmas action with their other granddaughter.   I didn’t think twice about it while setting up the Mac for them in the 4-season, but within seconds it seemed there was my niece, just 4 months older than Anna should be, toddling her way towards the screen with curiosity and Mom crooning to get a her attention and hopefully, a rewarding smile.   Which is absolutely fine!   Who would expect any different?  We certainly don’t begrudge anythingthey do with her, it for us!   (And I mean all of us, particularly here and now with Brad & I, while my parents are reveling in her, they can’t not think of Anna and all they are missing in this visit.)   Poor Dad felt bad and was trying to engage (or continue, by the time I got there) in an Anna-related topic in the kitchen several feet away but I just wanted outta there and f0r about 60 seconds there was an intensity of desperation, misery, and protocol-anxiety that begged for the universe to freakin’ HOLD-IT for a sec while we get our bearings for god’s sake!!!   Nothing that 3-5 minutes of debriefing and preparation for how to go about this wouldn’t easily have taken care of.   But we weren’t thinking and it all happened so quickly.   So now here we were with them feeling guilty and Brad and I just wanting to be away while it occurred with no “I’m sorries” afterwards, because really, what is there to do?   It is was it is.   But oh, were we pissy that we have no little gem to fawn over and that there is no bed-headed bundle we’re forcing to open presents as if she’d have any idea what’s going on and no videos to take and no.... memories being made.  Not of the kind you care to remember, anyway.   (Of course as soon as I write that, I’m instantly grateful that my parents were here and that they ARE here, for they won’t always be, and I’ll wish for this Christmas back, despite it all.   I can be the grand marshall of the pity party parade, no doubt about it, but have recovered enough this last year to sincerely count my blessings.   Nine or so months ago, I cared not one whit about any blessings.   So hopefully I get at least a few points back on the great karmic scale of gratitude vs self-involvement?  Maybe?  Maybe not.)
Anyway, the day moved on ‘per normal’ after that albeit dreading the great Opening of Presents tradition that is such a part of us we can’t stop ourselves.   (That, and better to just get it over with!)  So, late that afternoon we sat down and I swear did our damndest to pretend this wasn’t a Tim Burtonesque holiday (google him, those of you over 60).  ;-)   Half same-as-always, half tears as the first gifts were about each other, the remainder about Anna.   The overriding attitude of the day?  Keep in mind that there was no swearing in my childhood household and any that occurs as adults is done with 1) a lowered voice, 2) an expression of guilt and 3) an unspoken plea for forgiveness.   In culmination of the great gift opening, Brad says, as he’s hugging my parents, “MerryF***ing Christmas!!!”    And no one batted an eye.

12/24/10 Christmas Eve

Oh, yes.  Christmas.   Lest we forget.   Such an afterthought, and then suddenly all in your face because actually you can’t reschedule December 25th to a later date.   (Like, to “never”.)
Christmas Eve was do-able though, spending it at my sister-in-laws new home (the one all Brad’s siblings were raised in) for her inaugural holiday hosting.   A reasonably fine time with all four siblings and almost all of their family members.   Tree, food, laughter, screaming, chaos, conversation, anticipation, decorations, mandatory thank-yous to aunts and uncles.  Your typical Christmas fare, for those fortunate to have a bonafide Hallmark holiday milieu.   A category we quite consciously and gratefully accept.   A couple family members graciously took pictures of us holding Anna’s little pink bunny in front of the tree (the family Christmas picture, as it were) without saying a word about it being weird or trite or self-indulgent.  God bless them.  
The thoughts you couldn’t stop of course, are the ones that include Anna plopping on her behind as she turned too fast for her uncoordinated little standing body to handle when the barking dog chased the yowling cat down the hall with two squealing 8-9 year old girls right behind them with the combined intention of creating more havoc, witnessing the potential carnage and trying to stop said carnage.   Certainly Anna would have looked to us with questioning eyes to determine whether she should freak out or how, exactly, she should handle the cacaphony down the hall.  “If Mom and Dad are cool, I’ll be cool.”    The attention her cousins would have lavished on her.   All eyes on her as she clumsily got to her own round-edged, non-choking, brain stimulating, drive-Mom-&-Dad-to-drink noisy gifts.   Feeding her before ourselves.  A conked out little girl in sleeper jammies on the way home, dead weight as her Daddy carried her inside, so safe and comfortable and warm.   The rest of us deeply satisfied in the way you feel when the world is right.
Instead we pretty much didn’t talk about her (no need to state the obvious) and went home shivering in our gratitude for what was and our bottomless heartache for what wasn’t.   Is feeling concurrently full for your blessings while utterly hollow for your losses a singularly human experience?   One wonders.   

12/23/10 Her Poem

We received this poem from one of my closest friends on Anna’s birthday.  One of the few who met her that morning, one who has felt the love and loss of her as much as we have.   She even made our daughter a heartbreakingly sweet and tiny white tutu for her first birthday, as originally planned.   Surely it will someday be placed behind glass amongst a few other sacred items to be treasured over the coming years.  

I’ve been sitting here for longer than I care to admit, trying to convey the depth and breadth of who this friend has been for me.  How next to Brad you have been my very life support in those moments I didn’t think I could do it - whether it be entering her room again for the first time, or simply breathing for the next hour.   Getting me to laugh with a mutual understanding that laughter and despair can exist simultaneously.   How you’ve met me and accepted me wherever I am, everytime - even before her death.   Low, angry, irreverent, beaten, “normal”, hysterical, needy, numb or in need of a good ol’ fashioned girl time.    You’ve let me love on your girls with abandon, and even bigger, let me cry on them too.   (Send me the bill for any therapy that induces 20 years from now.)  ;)   

See?  I’m trying to do it and I can’t.   Your words below better represent who you are than anything I could possibly write.  Thank you, thank you, thank you - to you and to all those life-giving friends whose hearts I know express the same sentiments.

Dearest Little Anna Marie

What would you be like on your first birthday?
Who would you look like, what would you say?

Would you be walking around and getting into stuff, 
Or would playing with gift boxes entertain you enough?

Would you sleep through the night, how much noise would you make?
Would you take dainty bites or devour your cake?

There’s so much about you we can never know, 
What you like to play, how tall you will grow.

Today we celebrate your life, though it was only inside.
It brought us so much:  wonder, amazement, joy and pride.

But somehow that joy didn’t unfurl,
So we hold you close in our hearts today, little one-year-old girl.

- S.L. 

12/15/10 Happy Birthday, Little One

Thank you friends and family, for making Anna’s birthday a true Event.   A satisfying one at that, as much as such a thing could be.   Brad and I didn’t know what to expect, but it surpassed what we’d dared hope, I think.   We had unexpected visitors, 2 bouquets of flowers, a cookie bouquet, a number of remembrance gifts, and countless cards, emails, voicemails and texts.  Many people shared experiences and conversations generated by the buttons and bracelets, or simply let us know they were wearing them (often with pride and purpose, which was great.)  We could not have felt more loved, could not have wanted more for our little girl.  Your outpouring of expression in honoring and remembering Anna... nothing could mean more to us.   ‘Thank you’ seems so paltry in comparison to the depth of gratitude and relief we feel.  YOU made her birthday special.   Thank you so much.
Family stayed throughout much of the evening (thank you Brian, Scott, Lynn, Amelia and Alexa), and earlier in the day we had an impromptu ceremony in which those present lit a candle, set it in a cupcake they had decorated, and talked about what they miss or wish or just needed to say.   The moments leading up to that ceremony were the most emotional of the day, after Brad broke down after taking pictures of the cake and birthday items on the table before we began.  So not the pictures we wanted on her first birthday.   The ‘ceremony’ was indescribably sad, but also...needed.  Appropriate.  Something formal with which to hang a memory on in the future, so we could say ‘We did this on her birthday’.  
It seems there is more to say, but it’s now late and I must go back to work tomorrow.  So for now, good night.   Again...thank you for making Anna’s day everything we didn’t even know we needed it to be.   You really are the very best.  We are very lucky people to have you all.

12/14/10 Here It Comes

Writing has been on my heart for days and days.   It’s my mind that won’t cooperate.   Stymied by the enormity of trying to write all that has been these last weeks, these months of anticipating Anna’s birthday.  It’s actually a few days after the fact as I sit here, but the content is representative of pre-birthday.  So I’m fudging.   
It used to be that my emotions were the only reality that mattered, nothing superseded them.  So powerful there was no choice but to spit them out all over this blog in order to open up some space in me to do something else.  Now, a year later, I’m running away from those emotions by doing everything else.   But our little girl deserves time, and space, and presence.   Certainly she received that on Wednesday, but to not carve space here as well in the venue in which she has existed for me and so many all this time...well.  
For months I dreaded her birthday.  Literally since June.  The very thought seized my insides and sent my mind into panic.  ‘What would we do?’  ‘What could possibly be good enough?’  ‘What if it isn’t good enough?’  ‘What if I regret whatever we did or didn’t do?’  ‘What in god’s name does a couple do for a baby-who-isn’t that is enough enough? For us?  For her?  That isn’t so little as to not honor her but not so big as to turn people off?’  I think mostly I just didn’t want to face it.  The horror of trying to pull off a first birthday for an absent child is as unthinkable as every hour we faced in the hospital from 11:26 PM onward.   The pressure as a parent who loves and wishes for that child with every ounce of body and soul to commemorate her in a manner that is worthy of her, that is satisfactory to us and the others that miss her, that is well-received by the friends and family who have held us up all this time, and that is not in poor taste to the world at large?!   Ugh.   Not to mention the significance of the “One Year Mark” for Brad and I in general.  But that’s another entry.
So I avoided with extreme success, which only added to the pressure.  (One would think I’d be developed enough after all my years of self-improvement quests and therapy to take the reins and be proactive in my dealing, but in fact, no.)  Still.  At the end of the day, in partnership with my husband and encouraging feedback from close friends in those couple of weeks leading up to the 15th, I think we made it.   The buttons and bracelets made it on time, Brad and I used our blizzardly Saturday to address and stuff envelopes, he braved the roads to get them to the post office and between myself, my Mom and my friend we delivered baskets to my workplaces Monday.  With a sigh of relief, it seems we did it.  What people decided to do with the buttons and bracelets was up to them.  But as Anna’s Mommy and Daddy, we did everything we knew to do to show our love for her, and to encourage our world to remember her.   And close to being a good Mommy as I’ve felt all year.   Which may be what I was looking for all along.

11/14/10 Frustration

To catch many of you up, it looks like we’re letting go of Korea.   We’ve moved onto another local agency that does primarily domestic infant adoptions, as opposed to the first that does primarily international adoptions.  Having Anna changed things, and we again desire so much to have an infant.   Korea would be a 14 month old child at the very best, a 3 year old a possibility.   It would be great to be able to pursue Korea at the same time we move within domestic adoption, but the first agency will not allow it.  So we have to choose.   GOD that people do not understand how lucky they are to just ‘have a kid’.   And the people who say “You can always adopt”....they have no idea what they’re talking about.   You don’t just show up, fill out some forms, wait a few months, bring your baby home.   Good lord.
You can sense my building frustration with this whole thing, this whole quest for family.   I just don’t get it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   I’m mad we’re still having to work for it.  I’m mad we just don’t have Anna here.  I’m mad we’re not looking to child #2, but still begging for child #1.  I’m mad the holidays are coming and I can’t stop them.   I’m mad that we’re still so sad.  I’m mad that everything is taking so long in getting ‘official’ with another agency.  I’m mad the Adoption Website isn’t yet up and running and out to everyone we know so that it can go to everyone they know and so on so it can be working for us.   I’m mad that it feels like we’re in the very same spot we’ve been in for nearly 5 years.   Wanting, hoping, waiting, scared.   Swear to God, if I could magically wipe away the holidays, that would be a no-brainer.   If I could somehow put the calendar on hold until I’m ready to deal with December.  If I knew what to do to commemorate her birthday.   I’m desperate to honor her, desperate for people to remember her with us, and yet the very thought of organizing something to do so paralyzes me.   I need it to wait until I’m ready.   How do I do that???  

11/13/10 I wonder…and trauma resurfaces

Anna would have experienced her first snow today.   We woke up to a world of white and got about 5 inches all at once.  She would have noticed.   There would have been video and pictures and Memories.     She might have just stood there completely  unfazed.  Or looked at us like we’re crazy for bringing her outside in the cold with a “Why are we doing this again?” expression.  Or maybe she would have looked around in wonder and spluttered as snowflakes landed on her face.   Maybe she would have grabbed handfuls and giggled after plopping down in it on her bottom because she’s not sturdy enough yet to stand for long.   I wonder which.  I wonder what she’d look like now.  Curls in that dark hair?   Eyes just like her Daddy’s?   A chub or still delicate?  His personality or mine?   I wonder what kind of cake I’d be planning for her birthday.  Probably cupcakes, for Year #1.  I wonder how much more in love with her we’d be for all her nuances and quirks and moments of the last 11 months.  I wonder if we’d have any idea what we were in for with her by now.
I haven’t written here much lately even though as I said a couple entries back, I think about it almost every day.   Some of you have seen that the Adoption Site is up and running.   It’s not ‘ready to launch’ yet, but close.   We’ve realized that our last name is included in the website URL, which is a big no-no.  We have to see if we can get that fixed before blanketing the nation!   It seems that every second I’m not working or maintaining the household at some level, I’m working on that site or our new homestudy or something else related to getting us a damn family.   It’s exhausting.  Appointments, research, planning,paperwork.   The kind of paperwork that involves serious mental investment.   Writing for unknown potential birthparents and the people that know or love them, writing to represent who we are as individuals and a couple, writing for social workers, repetitive personal information for the plethora of forms required by our new adoption agency.   I don’t have the energy left to write here too.   
Except that in focusing so much on getting to where we want to go, I’m not spending time accepting where we are, not grieving Anna.  And it’s coming back to bite me, just like the ‘experts’ say it will.   There have been more tears more often the last several weeks, not a time I’m alone in the car that they don’t spring up anymore.   But no full-on letdowns of more than a minute, until Monday.  It feels like the pressure has been building and I wasn’t consciously aware.  Or maybe didn’t want to be.  Monday afternoon at the end of my work day I answered an email that started me crying, and I found I couldn’t stop.   Brad and I went to support group that night, cried most of the way through it.  (The woman who runs the group lost her full-term daughter 28 years before to the day.  She’d fallen apart Monday herself.   It’s true, it never goes away, and I still don’t know how to process seeing our ‘leader’ and mentor-of-grief be one of us struggling.)  Anyway, we came home, I cried with Brad some more, realized I need to talk with his family about Anna in small groups or I’ll never make the holidays together, and finally admitted that I just need to go in her room and sob.   He came with me.   There’s nothing particularly significant about all that, certainly it’s happened in similar ways before.   But there was something different about Monday.  Remember one of the early blog posts entitled “Icebergs”?   When I said on the night she died “it was as if every dream, hope, wish, expectation and desire we ever had surrounding her got wrapped up in an enormous, billowing transparent material that wound quickly around us.  As the hours went by, its space transformed into a solid mass.  Immense.  An iceberg.  As that iceberg slowly thaws, pieces of those dreams and expectations are exposed.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason to their order, nor to their depth within the berg itself.”?   Well.  Turns out that was an apt description.  Except I didn’t say that the night itself was splintered and frozen the same way.    I never cried that night, not from the moment we learned her heart rate had dropped in the labor room until we gave her up the next day.  Never even came close.  I remember many pieces of those 16-18 hours vividly and think about them still, all the time.   We know that she lived for 38 weeks before that, but if feels like her whole life is all in that night.   I hope that someday we’ll focus on her Life instead of her death.   We’ll see.
Anyway.   Things got quieter after a several minutes of letting out all that had been pent up.  But then, literally as if rising up in smoke from a deep dark place, a specific section of our night with Anna began swirling in my head.  One I’m very, very familiar with.   But this time all the emotion that was not expressed back then came too.   Before I knew it I was gagging, moaning, screaming or whatever that horrible sound is that comes from the human psyche experiencing something unthinkable.   They were wheeling me out of the OR on the gurney to the special care nursery to see Anna for the first time.  Brad was somewhere near me, but I couldn’t tell you where.  I couldn’t tell you the layout of the nursery except there was a hallway of sorts with bassinets on either side.   I don’t remember seeing her directly, but I knew Anna was at the far end and many people were down there surrounding her, waiting for us.  What I did see, with perfect clarity, was the live baby on my left.   Under a light, wiggling, fussing, chubby for a newborn, a boy.   Something must have been going on with him or he wouldn’t have been in the special care nursery, maybe just jaundice, maybe something more.  But he would clearly live.   His parents were standing to the left of his bassinet.   I might have looked at their faces for an instant, maybe not, but I know that their expressions were a terrible mix of horror, fear and discomfort.   How much of it was for their own situation or ours, I don’t know.   But there was no doubt whatsoever that they knew they were witnessing every parent’s worse nightmare.   It was like a bad accident they got stuck in and couldn’t stop watching.   I could feel their emotions and hated it, didn’t want them, didn’t want to be this person that warranted them.   I believe the look on my face was blank, the same as it was in all our pictures with Anna.  But I remember thinking in some thin distant but familiar voice “that baby is alive.  The one I’m about to see, mine, MINE, will be still.  Quiet.  I will never, never... never see her move like that baby” and “Those people get to take their baby home.  We will go home alone”.  I can see that baby better than Anna in my mind.  I ‘see’ Anna only from the pictures I have, not from any clear personal memory from inside of me.  I do remember her right arm as I was lying on that gurney, the Mr Magoo doctor that they called in from the U of M lifting it and letting it drop to prove to me that she was gone, as if I needed proof, as if seeing her lifeless would help me accept it.   He kept doing little tests and looking at me afterwards, “See?  Nothing.”   God, I resented him for that.   Don’t do that.  I know.  I knew.  Don’t show me how she’s nothing like she should be right now.   How she’s nothing like that baby that I can still see, just 10 feet away (or was it 50?  Some mental snapshots are so clear, others so distorted.)
It was those few seconds, passing that baby and his parents, knowing that I was heading towards my reality and couldn’t do anything to stop or change it, that surfaced Monday night.  All the emotions one would expect, coming without warning or explanation.   Why now, who knows.  Why that particular memory, who knows.   Apparently the iceberg is in fact melting.   I believe that finally experiencing those emotions is probably healthy, probably even necessary.   And I admit there was been a sense of lightness in the following days.   But I wonder what is coming next, and when.   There is both holding my breath for the time bomb and a desire to get it over with.   But clearly there is no control over such things.   Funny how we are taught we can control so much of our lives when in fact the most important things are out of our control entirely.   

10/14/10 Moments

Several times a week unforeseen moments remind me of what we’ve lost.   Sometimes it’s just a poke, sometimes a shove to the chest, sometimes knocking me flat on my back.    I’m sure they happen to my parents, I know they happen for Brad.  We don’t often discuss them because we’re trying to protect each other from our pain, but once in a while it will come up.   There have been a few that have stuck with me the last 2-3 weeks.
Last Saturday a local hospital hosted a ceremony for perinatal loss, to honor all those babies who were lost before they were born.  There are so very few ways or times devoted to acknowledging Anna to anyone but ourselves, you want to take advantage of those you find.   It was a combination of music, ceremony, prayer, and at the end, a release of doves for every child lost.  All the children’s names were printed on a 4x4 card inserted within the program.   That seemed to be the hardest part for Brad, seeing her name in print there.   You don’t want to see your child’s name on what is essentially an obituary list.   He looked it over for a few minutes, tucked in back inside the program and laid his hand on the program.  I didn’t have to look at him to know he was losing it.   I haven’t seen him like that in a long time.  While heartbreaking, it felt ‘right’ somehow to grieve together again.   Almost always we do it alone now.  I know for myself I tear up or cry in the car on a very regular basis.   It is unbearable to think about Brad feeling all the things I feel during a course of a day.
Then there was a student at school last week.   It was play time and few of the kids were playing with a Potato Head set that included a few large potato heads and a couple small ones.   I was sitting several feet away with another child, but well within earshot.   I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention until I heard the child say, “The Grandma is sad.”   “Why is the Grandma sad?”, asked the teacher.   “Because she thinks the baby died.”     It was so unexpected, so out-of-sync with anything that had been said just before (or ever, for that matter), and said by a boy who had just walked up to the scene... I mean, where did that come from?!    The things you could never anticipate.   You’re going along, functional, doing your job, being present and involved, and BAM.    Thankfully, the teacher was aware and sensitive enough to ask how I was doing within about 20 seconds, which by itself was helpful enough to carry me through the next several minutes.
Then there was the family at the park.   I was all proud of myself for getting out and riding my bike in these last nice days of fall, and thought I saw neighbors at a local park that had just come over from dinner the week before.   It was a couple whose husband had written one of the most painful and meaningful comments on our first website about how our girls were supposed to be best friends and how he was looking forward to trick-or-treating and sledding together.  They had their second child, Annabelle, just 2 months before Anna.  Anyway, they came to dinner without their kids so that we could have the hard conversations and emotions without filtering.  I thought making an effort to say ‘hi’ while they obviously had their children with them at the park would be a good gesture in re-establishing some sense of normalcy in what is a difficult situation for everyone.   Only it turned out not to be my neighbors at all!   A random family.  But there I was, the only other person around and had clearly had biked up specifically to say ‘hi’, so verbal interaction and explanation was necessary.   But they had a baby girl, in a sweet sweet sleeper and little hat, on all fours playing in the sand while her Mom stood nearby and supervised.  Somehow I just knew she was almost exactly Anna’s would-have-been age.   I should have just kept moving, but I didn’t.   I asked how old she was, and I know there was a very strange look on my face that got worse after she answered just as I thought she would.   ‘That could be Anna.  That could be me.   Look how precious she is.  At that fabulous stage of mobile but not standing steady.   Exploring but not so much to be difficult to manage.   Look at that darling hat, that outfit.  That could sooo be Anna.  Look what I’m missing.  It’s right there....right there in front of me.’   It was only a few seconds, but enough for her mom to get uncomfortable and politely dismiss me with a “Well, have a good day!”   Can’t blame her.   I moved on, but still wish I’d said, “That’s how old my daughter would be.”   It was opportunity missed to say that I have a daughter too, that she matters, that she was

10/12/10 Blaze of Glory

For the record, I think about writing here at least every other day.   Often I do not because it just sounds like complaining over and over and over.   But more often I must choose which priority I’m going to put my energy into.   Recreating and fine-tuning our parent profile?  Researching other profiles, adoption agencies, adoption facilitators, surrogates, lawyers?   Make a meal to last the next few days?   Usually the parent profile wins.  It takes an unbelievable amount of time and thought.   Gathering and scanning pictures, choosing existing ones, which ones to actually use that make us look awesome?   What to write that will not only be a true reflection of who we are individually and together, but that will attract a birthparent’s heart?   Or at the very least not turn them off?   This may come as a surprise to most of you, but I tend to be wordy.   (“Noooo!!  Wordy?  You?!”)   So it’s hard for me to trim Us down to a paragraph or four.   Brad is much better at it.  Anyway...that’s where most of my creative and focused time and energy has gone lately.   Sorry for being so absent here.

In my head, I’ve been documenting for you all the change of season.   A couple of weeks ago I noticed we had some party-hearty trees that didn’t care a whit about fashion and were taking it all off and going “branch naked” early on.    Some are more modest, shedding just their tree hats and scarves before going The Full Monty sometime this week or next.   But almost all turned on their true colors this year.   It’s been the most beautiful autumn here that I can remember.  I notice that I’m letting myself take it in.  Letting myself enjoy the color, the smell, the crispness in the air (when it’s not 75 degrees like its been this last week!).   I notice that I can have both.  The beauty and the sadness.    I can wish that Anna were here to play in the leaves and still appreciate being outdoors.   I can cry her out and absorb autumn in at the same time.  
That's progress, right?
It also hit me one day driving down the street that before death, there is this Blaze of Glory.  How had I missed that all this time?  That in nature, both birth and death are marked with a glorious sort of beautiful?  Spring is unequivocally stunning in its color and vibrancy.  Every flower, every new leaf poking out its branch, every plant is something to be celebrated and reveled in.  So it is with birth, is it not?  And with every subsequent new little skill our babies master without us so much as thinking to teach it.  Very often death in animals and humans is not nearly so striking as nature's version, and even in nature Fall is more 'mature' and somber than Spring in its color and ceremony.  But is that the lesson?  That though we may not be able to see it, we are in fact leaving in a blaze of glory to the hereafter?  That the glory is going home to God?  Did God create Spring and Fall as they are to utterly surround us in this knowledge when we do not consciously recognize it?  To show us how it works?  To provide solace, comfort, hope, even joy in BOTH events?  
Now there is an aspect of God I can rest in.

9/21/10 Last Nerves

I started today with a very nice gentleman from the city park maintenance department, getting approval for the spot Brad and I have chosen for Anna’s memorial bench (shown in the picture above).   There’s a quiet meadow overlooking bluffs where you can watch the moon come up - or the sun, for you early risers - 5 minutes walking distance from our home.   I used to go there to Be during in the year of in vitro, and it’s the first place we went upon returning from the hospital without her.   I like to think both my dreams and my screams scattered across the snow that day and melted there in the spring.   My remembrance.
The plans I had immediately after this meeting were re-scheduled at the last minute, so I took advantage of my ‘out of the house and in public’ mentality to get as dressed up as I get these days (aka appropriate to shop at the mall) and run some errands.  No sooner had I completed the first than I locked my keys in the car.  One hour and $65 later, I was back on my way.   But the esthetician I’ve worked with since 2004 was 5 months pregnant with her second child at that first errand, a fact unknown to me until today when her belly was telltale swollen (I see her only every 3 months.)  She knows well my history, and the interaction was uncomfortable (for us both) and resigned (for me).  Between Anna’s bench, the pregnancy, and the keys, I was a little feisty by 1:30.   
I went to replace the purse that had been stolen in July, and as the only customer in the store, the saleswoman was “attentive” and trying to upsell me.   Finally I told her the original had been stolen and I just needed to replace IT, nothing else.   As I left, she wished me better luck.  I turned to her with flat eyes and said, “You have NO idea.”   As I was walking out of the mall, past the Motherhood store, I could feel my emotions rising to the boiling point.   I was unable to exit the Dick’s Sporting Goods door I’d entered in, for some godforsaken reason having to go around the cashier’s area through a different set of doors.   I fully processed this about the time I should have been able to actually walk through the entrance doors, also when the nearest employee stated the obvious and directed me to the exit doors.  Between me and the most direct route to an exit, only a railing.   Easily travailed by the likes of a flexible - and desperate - 41 year old in 3-inch boots.   The employee read my mind and my body language almost before I moved, jumping a bit in her little space behind the counter, voice rising in both challenge and anxiety.   “You have to go around!”  As she saw my defeat (only because the railing was partially blocked by carts and I would have looked mentally ill or criminalistic to pursue that mode of escape), she softened her tone with “We don’t want you to get hurt.”    Yeah right.  My safety has not one iota of a thing to do with what door I use to get in or out.  There’s some security feature here that eludes me, but whatever.  Five seconds later I’m outside in the balmy air walking calmly to my car, realizing this was the exact mental space Brad was talking about from early January.  When some poor stranger picks the wrong day to mess with you.  Or talk to you.  Or look at you.  Because somehow it all turns into messing with you.  Your daughter is dead.  And the sun is shining.   Your only child.  The one you dreamed of, worked for, paid for, were denied time and time again, and then was miraculously blessed with months after you thought it was all over.   “You have a healthy, beautiful girl in there.”   You never got to see her alive, look into her eyes and tell you loved her.  She never saw her Mommy and Daddy.  “It’s going to be fine!  Get your camera!  We’re going to meet your daughter.”    Salespeople expecting you to be pleasant and conversational and follow the rules.    Empty nursery, empty house, empty hearts.   
Going crazy, blowing up, it’s the easiest thing in the world.   Maintaining a semblance of civility, feigning that you care one whit about what you look like or whatever activity proves your responsible participation in this first world sitcom we’ve got going... that’s the challenge of a lifetime.

9/20/10 When Google Can't Help

There’s alot of time spent on the computer.  When I’m done with what I can think of to do, I can no longer cover up my sense of dissatisfaction and restlessness.  I check hotmail again, go to CNN, maybe check email on yahoo, sit on that big white Google page with the blinking marker in the space bar, waiting to find...something.   I know there’s a billion interesting things on the great world web, a zillion sites I’m missing.  But eventually I realize the one I want isn’t there.  Then my stomach clenches and I stop breathing for a few seconds, consciously corking the inferno of chaos and fury and desperation,  before taking a deep breath and shutting the computer down to find my distraction elsewhere. Or to take the fire head on, going into Anna’s room and succumbing to it all.  
The internet is a truly amazing tool.  It can give me several opinions on what really occurred at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD (where the Nicean creed came from - so many of us recite it at church without really knowing a thing about where it came from).   It can include me in the experience of thousands of women who are pregnant or depressed, hundreds who are obsessed with Josh Groban or Star Wars or their hangnails.  It can translate a sentence into Somali, show me what sorghum looks like and where it grows.   But it cannot tell me what happened to my daughter.   It cannot explain to me why she died or why we have to fight so hard to have a family.   It cannot tell me how to survive or what to do now.   The internet does not care if we adopt from Korea or try domestically or are losing our minds.   It cannot tell me if we will ever be successful in adopting an infant.   If trying will only cause more suffering.   If having a child will lessen our mourning.  If we will ever feel carefree or truly happy again.   It can’t tell me if or when Brad will get a job, if we should sell this house as soon as possible and batten down our finances so that we can even afford to adopt.   Google cannot answer my questions to God.  It cannot answer my questions about God.  
Some would say finding the answers to those questions within yourself is a beautiful, integral part of the human experience.   There is a part of me that completely agrees.    But there is another part that wishes Google truly had it all.

9/19/10 11:26

For a period of several weeks not long ago it seemed almost every time I looked at the clock, it was 11:26.   I became so affected by it that I started to have anxiety if it was anytime between 11:00 and 11:26, and considerable relief after, especially if it was at least 15 minutes after.   Into the 11:40s was good.   I don’t seem to see it so much now, but am still momentarily gripped with fear and trepidation if I think it might be around 11:30, night or day.  
11:26.   Anna’s official time of birth.   11/26.  My birthdate.  
What kind of sick joke is that?!   I despise 11:26.

8/26/10 Positive Attitudes and Other Impossible Tasks

Each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit.  - William James
The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy.  - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different.  ~Katherine Mansfield

The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.  - Carlos Castaneda
Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be. - Henry David Thoreau
There was a time quotes like this were a wake-up call.  Thought provoking and inspiration to take a look at how I approach life and how I could do it so much better.   Spend as much time thinking positive thoughts as I do negative ones?  Man, I could be blissful within 6 months to a year.   But then, in the same way you get motivated to undertake an exercise program, even if you start conservatively to improve your chances of success, you find yourself doing the same old thing before you even know what’s happening.  Over and over and over...
It’s the same thinking people blame New Agers of promoting with Law of Attraction and The Secret.   Just packaged differently.   It seems we as a people keep trying to find new ways to say that in large part, we control how we experience our life.   It’s a noble endeavor, I even think it’s true.   Don’t we all know someone who has an uncanny ability to be sunny and uplifting in circumstances that might well have us complaining?  Stuff rolls off them and they seem to handle life with grace and a greater sense of acceptance.   People we look forward to seeing, admire, breathe a little easier after being around them.   And the other side - people we straighten up a little bit for to steel ourselves against.   Those who constantly have something to bitch about and you find yourself wanting to shake like a wet dog after having spent 5 minutes with them?   They’re heavy and annoying and take sooooo much energy.
Guess which one I am?   
I married the other.   No doubt whatsoever he’s the reason our neighbors like ‘us’.   He’s always welcoming, easy, has time for you, really listens, remembers details of your life... he makes you feel wanted and important.  Honestly, how I got so lucky with him...sometimes it’s truly a mystery to me.  
Anyway, while Brad and I were in the hospital after Anna died, I distinctly remember our OB saying to me that “losing a child destroys some people”, and then something like “or it inspires them to do great things” (not surprisingly it’s the first part I remember clearly).   It was obvious that he was pushing for me to be the latter.  I remember thinking, 1) it would certainly make him feel better, and 2) don’t hold your breath.
I read quotes like those above now and think, “I’m screwed.”  I wasn’t good at it before, and now I get mentally/emotionally tired just meeting new people or seeing old people for the first time or spending a few hours having a conversation with a friend or....a million different things.   Anything that requires me to Show Up.   I don’t have the extra ‘umph’ it takes for self-improvement.  Or to create happiness through my approach.   How how HOW do I become a person I  want to be around?!?!

8/7/10 Just Quench Already

In the last several weeks, I don’t think there’s been a single person we or anyone we know has talked to who has not said “How much more can one couple take?!”  (referring most recently to the burglary, then Brad’s Dad.)  We are quick to say “Don’t ask, don’t even think about it.  It can always get worse.”
As Life continues to pile itself on, we hold on to what we have.  Each other, our families, our home, our pets.... our friends.   We are loved, our stomachs and cupboards are full, we have lots of roof over our heads, we still have some money in the bank.  Millions upon millions have but the love of another...or not even that.   We know, we know, we know.   I know.  
It does not change that I am tired on a level far beneath what is visible to the naked eye.  A dimly burning wick for sure.   God seems bent on not actually quenching it, a fact I cannot for the life of me comprehend.  The above passage looks nice but can feel more a warning than the comfort I suspect it’s meant to be.  
The necessary events and actions surrounding my father-in-law’s death brought me back to those first weeks after Anna where I was unable to participate in life or friendly conversation.   Picking out family pictures to show at the visitation that included several of him with his granddaughters, one in particular where the eldest, maybe 2 years old at the time, was applying lipstick to her grandpa.  Greatest picture.  (We don’t have any of my FIL with Anna.)   Seeing several family members and friends from my husband's side for the first time since she died at the visitation, getting through ‘the look, the words, the hugs’.   Deeply appreciated, but hard.   By the time we reached the luncheon following the funeral itself the next day, for all practical purposes I was no longer present.   It just so happened that Brad and I were sitting at the end of a long string of tables, with this empty space between our chairs that was exactly where Anna’s high chair would have been.  It was....weird, profoundly so for me.   We hadn’t planned to sit there, it just happened that way.  The space felt so obvious, sort of swirled what I looked at it, almost to the point of vertigo, and it felt like everything was screaming “She should be there...THERE!!!”   Long-standing family friends were talking to me that were at the far end of a tunnel.  Literally like you see on TV where you watch their mouths move but you’re 20 feet away and not registering a thing.  I’m positive there is more than one beloved family friend who is considerably less than impressed with me right now.  I left for about 20 minutes in the middle to sit on the curb a few blocks away.  I didn’t even care that I was locked out of the house on a hot humid day in a dress when I was dropped off at home, so desperate to be alone with my combined panic and numbness, so close to having a genuine mental breakdown in front of everyone.   Especially when it wasn’t about her!!  It was about my husband's dad and family!  How much of a selfish wench would I look like breaking down about Anna at his funeral services?!   Good lord.
For the next 4 days I remained unable to engage - which was a real problem because Brad had been offered the job in Arizona and we needed to talk about it.  I could literally do nothing but stare at him, maybe nod my head a little in discussing the pros/cons of taking the position.  “You don’t have a partner right now.”, I said.  Because he didn’t.  With anything that required action, he was on his own.   Luckily he went to spend the weekend at his brother’s cabin, and I woke up Monday morning somehow ready to get back into the world, so we were able to have a few hours of intense conversation about it before he had to call and let US Airways know our decision.  (Which was “no”.  The offer was not good enough to move across the country for...just hope we’re not kicking ourselves 2 years from now!!  Brad is confident in the decision though, which is great.)
We feel the loss of her every day, but the hole where she should have been during that week was...gaping.  Realizing how much of the whole experience would have been different with her there.   A new little life, with promise and hope for a future in contrast to the end of life well-lived.   Laughter and poop and mini-meltdowns vs. the sad challenges of those last weeks.   Something delightful in the face of something profound.   Having all those people meet her and delight in her presence, not cry over her absence.  
Same sentiments, different day.

8/5/10 Be Well

“Hi Honey.”          “Love you, too.”          “I’m proud of you.”
Those last words can haunt or comfort you.  We are so lucky that the above words are the ones shared before he died.  
It’s been nearly a month since I’ve been able to post (more on that some other time), and of course the only thing that really matters during that time is the passing of Brad’s father.  If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know his health has been of issue for a few months, and that he’s been at the hospital or care facility since mid-June.   After many, many ups and downs, he passed away peacefully early on a Saturday morningt.  He was buried next to his wife on a beautiful summer’s day in the presence of his close friends nad family, with a moving tribute. 
While Brad’s family is of course mourning, Brad at least is no longer feeling the anxiety and stress that was ever-present before, wondering what would be mext, watching his father lose the vitality and enjoyment of his very independent life.  Brad and his siblings were awesome throughout, everyone stepping up, visiting, and beign there for their dad and each other.  As the end of life process goes, one could ask for little more; family, time, presence, love.
We know you’re great now - in fact, so much better than great.  Enjoy ,enjoy, enjoy.  We’ll see you soon.

7/4/10 July 4th

Today was one of those blindside days.  Once again, just like they talk about in the grief books.  And once again, it’s so different to experience than read about.  At least I know it’s normal, one advantage of educating myself - maybe I’ll end up with a Bachelor’s in Grief.  They have those, right?  As long as I don’t get a PhD in it, maybe I’ll survive the program.  Unlike Mother’s and Father’s Day, Anna’s would-have-been-1/2 birthday, etc etc, this Fourth of July took me by surprise.  It hasn’t been on my radar at all, just another day, just like in years past.  Except I woke up this morning cranky - like, teenage cranky.  No good reason, just testy and wanting to be left alone, stick my fingers in my ears, squeeze my eyes shut and sing LALALALALA just to shut everything out and everyone up.  Brad and I worked in the yard a bit, accomplished a couple of things that have been on our To Do list for weeks.  After a shower, I couldn’t deny any longer that it was sadness I was fighting, a wanting of something I can’t have, a deep dark cry from my soul that our daughter wasn’t here to dress up in red, white and blue and experience her first fireworks display.  Would she be startled?  Enchanted?  Would she pay attention at all?  Even be awake?  Would it be too hot to even venture out with her?  Would she have fit in that bright tiny hand-me-down swimsuit hanging on her crib?  And oh, how much fun we would have had at our friends pool-party yesterday, getting her used to the water and letting her slap and kick away with awkward and uncoordinated limbs, discovering herself in the water.  What would she look like, who would she be....the same questions we’ll be asking ourselves for the rest of our lives.  For the first time in what feels like a long time, I stopped trying to rise above and just let myself cry, long and hard and ongoing, until the tears became a trickle instead of a storm.

Brad, bless him, as if he doesn’t have enough emotion on his plate, sat with me and shared that he too, was having a hard time today.   This was a holiday he’d looked forward to when we were pregnant.  He’d wanted to take Anna up for a neighborhood parade, one of his own favorite childhood experiences and memories.  Share his own childhood, create ‘next generation’ memories with his daughter.  Share her with old friends and neighbors.  Maybe especially poignant given the possibility that his Dad may need to leave their childhood home at some point in the next weeks, months or year.  (Or not.  No one quite knows, yet.)   For as potent as my own grief is, it loses it’s umphf for me in the face of Brad’s dreams for Daddy-Daughter moments.  I wish I want I wish for him to have those... the same mechanism that wants to protect him and help him through Father’s Day and this health/aging stuff with his Dad.  

Speaking of which, there was a grand total of 4 people that acknowledged Father’s Day to Brad.  Myself, my parents, someone in our support group and a member of his family.   He says he wasn’t really looking for alot of recognition, and I know it’s really none of my business.  As long as he’s okay it should all be okay.  But the truth is, I’m angry.   I didn’t figure a jillion people should or would be knocking on the door or sending texts or cards or whatever, and I’m fully aware that most people don’t acknowledge any other father than their own.  It’s not like we send cards or call all our friends who are fathers that day.  I just thought that this time, this first Father’s Day, there would be a little more of a show of support, an extended gesture of recognition that this day would be so sad and difficult for Brad.  Especially from those men who are fathers and whose children mean the world to them.    I’m just mad, disappointed, frustrated, wanting to protect Brad and wanting to control something I have no control over.   Fruitful way to spend my time and energy, I know.  This is a prime example of this blog being part update and part journal!!

The picture of all that food above by the way, is at Father’s House in Kiev, a feast the staff put on for the mission trip members of August 2008.   Still don’t know exactly why God was so strong about having me go there...another part of this mysterious path we’re on.  

7/2/10 Thoughts Before Sleep

Falling asleep quickly seems hard to come by lately.  Unless you stay up way past the time that’s remotely good for you so that you’re practically sleeping before you actually lay down.   Last night neither Brad or I slept well, me for one getting less than 4 hours.   The litany in my head goes something like this...

I can’t believe I looked at the clock again tonight at 11:26 (the time Anna was born)      What is that about?!    The night she died  The excitement and anticipation Mom and Dad must have had when they got the call we were going in for a C-section, thinking that they would see and hold their granddaughter not long after arriving at the hospital    They got on their Grandma/Grandpa’s Girls T-shirts I can just see their faces and the smiles and anxious can’t-get-there-fast-enough-Woo-Hoo!!  Those T-shirts were thrown on the floor in a sad sad little pile when they got home at 4 AM that morning Where are they now? Those T-shirts that were such a triumph and joy to buy now just a horrible reminder of what isn’t any longer     Now what?   Now what with all that stuff, the picture albums that say ‘Grandkids’, etc     There will be more grandchildren, my brothers', maybe yet an adopted child of ours but oh that seems far away and so overwhelming What are we going to do about that   We need to get our letter to friends and family written to spread the word that we’re looking but we need to get a simple web page up and ready first so that any interested birthparents could look at it      That’s going to take time and it has to be great and we HAVE to focus on it but there’s so much else going on   Brad’s Dad takes so much time and energy right now, Brad doesn’t have it to give so it’s gotta be me  How do I help Brad? I can take on the letter piece,  what else can I do? I can do some research for assistance for his Dad but we don’t yet know what he’s going to need for sure so want to be prepared yet not waste a ton of time  What else can I do to support him? Get some nutritious meals together I have no desire or energy to do that myself  But I should because that’s how I can help and it would be good for both us       Brad gets so stressed about this Why is that?  How can I help him and his dad through this transition of life?  Crap crap crap    If only Anna were here to give a spark of joy and something wonderful to come home to    I know that would have it’s own set of stress but that’s one we’d welcome  That brown brown hair   What would she look like now?  What would she be doing?  Would she be happy and easy or colicky and driving us crazy? What clothes would she be wearing?  That sweet dainty little denim-overall outfit with the scalloped white top or would she be in 9 month old clothes ‘cause she’s an elephant?  What I wouldn’t give to see her smile and giggle  I can’t do this I have to sleep I can’t cry I have to be up to go to the hospital with Brad in 6 hours and the animals will get me up to eat in 4, think of something else   Brad’s Dad Something happy  A baby in our house a year from now How do we do that    Gotta do the letter gotta get the web page.....

....and on and on and on

6/29/10 New Normal Days

What IS a normal day?  For anyone, really?  I think all of us just want a ‘normal day’ most of the time, but it’s always interrupted by something unexpected.  Which just means that the nature of life is unexpected stuff that happens all, the, time.  A normal day actually means a boring day, does it not?  The most we can hope for is that the unexpected just slows you down, derails the plan, or makes you a little crazy...nothing that brings you to your knees.  

Six and 1/2 months, Rhodiola and Thyroid meds, some new friends seems we’ve fallen into the rhythm of that elusive “new normal” one reads about all the time after something life-changing.  There are often several days in a row without significant tears (aka a true breakdown of more than a few minutes that requires more than one kleenex), though every day or two there are still a few that fall amidst a breaking voice in some conversation.   Those moments of trauma big or small happen less often, we spend less time in her room.   I even got on a bike yesterday and today and was able to genuinely enjoy that they have been beautiful summer days.   I go to work, we go to support group, Brad looks for jobs and files for unemployment payments weekly and manages all this stuff with his Dad (along with his siblings), along we go.  

And yet, and yet.  Sunday I spent 3 hours weeding the garden as Brad was making his way back from golfing with friends for 4 days, and thought about how this was why we registered for the powerful baby monitor.  So I could be far out in the yard and still hear her cry if she woke up from her nap.  During that 3 hour period, surely I would have had to feed or change her.   And Brad, when he came home, would have smooched me soundly before going immediately to find her, if I didn’t have her in my arms to welcome Daddy home already.  I don’t spend all my time thinking “if she were here, XYZ would be different in CDE manner”, but sometimes it just Is.   That night I had to get out of bed at midnight and just go have a good cry in her room because I couldn’t stop the slow flow of tears and the tightness in my throat was too uncomfortable and the tide of missing her wouldn’t recede.   Working at the hospital last Friday I was walking down a hallway alone and suddenly thrown back to leaving the (birth) hospital with all the doors closed in the maternity ward so as to spare us those happy new families and Brad absolutely falling apart at the seams and utter horror of leaving there without her.  It remains one of the worst experiences, right up there with the night she died.  I found myself saying “think of something else anything else it’s only 9:30 in the morning and you have patients to see and you can’t do this now think of anything else”...which of course works not so well.  Then Saturday, for the second time I think in the 16 years I’ve been a speech pathologist I had to take a few minutes to shed some tears over a patient.  We work with getting patients back to their life, not making death easier.  When a patient goes on palliative care, we rehab therapists are outta there.  To know that for a few minutes today I interacted with a life that would no longer be a life before I even left the building...the tears of the son who was urgently calling family members to get there before it was too late, as the event was unexpected.  It was just...too close to home.  

That said, our own experiences of late certainly influence my interactions with patients and their families.  Teary eyes, a few more minutes to genuinely be with them, to acknowledge and affirmtheir life-changing event, that none of it is easy, that for many life will never be the same.  And so it goes.  The big question isn’t whether your life will change, it’s how and when. 

6/20/10 Father's Day

What is there to say, really.

It’s a hard day.  Brad spent some time in Anna’s room this morning, “had some tears”.   We went to visit his Dad in the hospital along with his siblings and nieces.  Being with the family was hard-ish for me more than Brad...knowing how different the whole interaction would have been if there’d been a 6-month old to fawn over and pass around between all the girls and Hilmen, how proud and satisfied and blissfully happy Brad would be today.   On our own, we can rather pretend it’s more of a regular day.
Of course there’s that U.S. Open thing and Father’s Day is mentioned frequently throughout, so can’t escape it completely.   I have to say though, that Brad tackled his Father’s Day gift and card at around 8:00 PM, which I was sort of surprised with.  I thought it might be a few days or more.  I got him a card from ‘wife’, not from ‘daughter’, and a simple wooden brown frame with his favorite picture of the 3 of us.  There were lots of tears, and certainly the toughest emotional minutes that were all about all we’ve lost and all we’re missing and all Anna in a long time. 
Thanks so much to all of you who took a moment to send Brad your thoughts today.  It means so much.