Today, I am thinking about my tribe. I am facing a test today that is giving me a little bit of anxiety (ok a lot of anxiety). I am having a bubble test done. Without going into too much detail, they are testing to ensure that my Fallopian tubes are clear of any blockage. It is just one more step in our baby journey. Because of this test and my aforementioned anxiety, I have reached out to my tribe. I need some reassurance that all will be well, because I am assuming the worst. My mom, my sister, my sister-in-law have all heard my cries of what if. They are all always there for me. I never have to worry that they will listen or offer the shot in the arm I need. They pick me up when I am unable to carry my baggage. I am also part of this amazing group of women, who I only know through Facebook. They are the reason that I have finally lost my 15 pounds of grief weight. We listen to each other, understand each other, and rally each other to keep moving. And that is nothing to say for my husband and what he does for me. So I know when I walk into that exam room this afternoon, I will be lifted up by this amazing group that I call my tribe. And for that I am thankful.
I am in a funk. To start, it is holiday time. We survived Thanksgiving. But I was very disappointed again that few people talked about Lincoln unless I brought him up first. I get all kinds of responses when I post on social media but when in person, people seem to avoid the topic. It makes me want to scream and yet I wonder if it is something I should just accept. I read a post by another loss mom about this same thing. At the time her words resonated with me but now they are lost. I can’t remember what she said that at the time seemed so insightful. How can I accept that others don’t mention my son? It feels like betrayal. I hear all the time that people don’t know what to say. I don’t know that I can tell you the exact words, just let me know that you are missing him too and say it first. Don’t wait to see how I am feeling or if I might bring him up. Because of course I miss him, of course he is on my mind. Every. Single. Day. And now I am dreading Christmas. I am dreading the effort it takes to decorate, but I feel this need to make things sparkly and bright. As though that might ease the hurt in my heart that I won’t have to tell my toddler not to play with the ornaments or my other breakables. Lincoln should be here to share in the wonder of this season. He even has his own stocking now. There was a visitor at our office last week. My CFO has a grandson named Lincoln, born a month after our Lincoln. He was wandering around picking up phones and anything he could get his hands on. My heart ached with the thought of my mischievous little boy and all the things he should be getting into. On top of all of this, we are struggling to get pregnant again. We have been trying for close to a year with no success. And we don’t know why. We have met with a new doctor, who is running tests to get to the root of our trials. But when he looked at our initial results, his response was “Everything looks great, why aren’t you pregnant?” I don’t know. I am finally feeling like I am getting my health back on track. But even that has added to my gloom, as I finished all 8 weeks of a new program. I want to start over, but can’t seem to find the drive that kept my going the last 2 months. I just feel as though I am in a quagmire of melancholy. I fear getting stuck but the more I struggle, the more I stay in the same place.
I have been thinking about writing a post for a while. I wanted to reflect on the last year. How does time fly by so quickly? In the days following our loss of Lincoln, I thought about getting to this point and I couldn’t even begin to imagine it. My grief was all encompassing and suffocating. I was drowning in the need to hold my son, to see his face, to hear him cry. How was I ever going to live without him? But I have. I have dealt with a range of feelings; anguish, helplessness, despair, anger, disorientation. My anxiety almost overtook me for a long period of time. My own mortality slapped me in the face and I feared death at every corner. And not just mine but Kyle’s, my mom’s, anyone close to me. I dreaded going back to work but found that it helped me start to put one foot in front of the other. I became like a puzzle to solve. I worked to put the pieces of me back together and slowly my life as a bereaved mother started to take shape. I have found ways to cope with the depths of my feelings and started to be ok with the new me. I attend a local infant loss group, where I am with other bereaved parents and found a couple of online groups that have helped me to connect with others like me. The shittiness/amazing part of all this is that I am not alone. I am even part of a Facebook group to help with my health journey. We are all loss moms trying to get back to our pre-loss bodies. I have learned to laugh again and find joy in life. I still struggle a little with my faith, but I can pray now and seek out His strength. I just do it on my terms. I don’t have to be in church to feel Him. I am also a crusader for my son. I will never have funny stories to share about parenting Lincoln, instead I am his voice. I want him to be remembered and to be included in things we do. I beg for people to say his name, send me cards on his birthday, include him in holidays and celebrations. The more I hear his name, the more I feel him in my heart. So I guess through all of this, I have reached a good point. I am doing more than ok. I still have times of grief. I always will. I know my journey is not over; but I have reached a good resting place along the way. I am looking forward to the future now and am hopeful for what it has to bring.
I started writing this post several weeks ago. What was once the most wonderful time of year has now become my most dreaded months since we lost Lincoln. The commercials are everywhere reminding us that Christmas is a time for children. Last year when we enjoyed time with our families we dreamed of the chubby little 8 month old cherub that Lincoln would be. Instead I will be lighting a candle to represent his presence in our life. When we took family pictures I held an elephant instead of my baby.
Yesterday was rough. I woke up plagued by my “normal” what ifs. I was back in that moment, wondering what I could have done different. If there was someway I could have sensed Lincoln in distress. Some days I can shake these feelings off. I focus on how far I have come and though I won’t ever be the old me, I am finding the new me that I am ok with. Other days not so much. Today for example, Lincoln would have been 7 months old. My sweet little baby would be sprinting towards toddlerhood. We would have just had his first Halloween. I wonder about his costume. Instead he is in a small white plastic box. He did attend our annual neighborhood Trick or Treat party. I needed him to be there. I simply carried him in my pocket. And of course, the marketing campaigns have immediately thrown us into preparation for Christmas. Kyle and I felt bombarded by Christmas commercials while watching tv. We are still three weeks from Thanksgiving and we are inundated with thoughts of the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t know
I have had many people tell me, that they were unsure of how to approach me or to know the right thing to say. I have found myself in the same boat many times before in my life. You can’t begin to imagine how the other person is feeling or handling what they are going through. What is the right thing to say, to help ease their pain? And those of us who are nurturers want something to do. We want to be able to make it better. I have learned a lot from my own experience and I want to share some suggestions for the next time you find yourself faced with the grief of a loved one. Firstly, there is no right thing to say. Sure there are a few things to avoid. Try to stay away from the typical things we use to assuage our own hurt. Including: God must have needed another angel; At least they aren’t suffering; Everything happens for a reason. These come across empty and cliche. Instead say what is on your heart. Tell them you are hurting too. Share a memory. Speak the name of the departed. Most importantly, don’t avoid that person for fear of saying the wrong thing. It is ok to pick up the phone and call. If they aren’t up to talking, they won’t answer. Also, don’t worry about bringing up the loss. It is always on their mind, believe me. Sometimes a good cry is therapeutic and helps release some of that pent up grief. Secondly, for those who want to do something, I think it is better to have a concrete idea to help. Bring food (that is easily frozen), offer to clean the house, mow the yard. It is difficult to come up with ideas for people to help when you are so lost. And remember that grief is that never ending river and sometimes a call or to help is welcome even months later. It is hard to be forgotten. Thirdly, do research. There are so many websites/Facebook pages/blogs out there dedicated to child and infant loss. Check them out. They have so many things to say and can give insight into this dark world.
Lincoln would have been 4 months old yesterday. How did 4 months go by? I have had many people say to me “I don’t know how you are getting through this.” My response to that is, I don’t have any choice. I can’t sit down and let life go by me. Instead I was pushed into this river of grief and I ride the current every day. I think that some people feel that I should have started to move on by now. But I will never move on. A river has no real end. And some days the waves and current are stronger than I can handle. But I ride them as best as I can. I go to sleep and dream of my child and I wake up and think about him every day. I don’t live in the moments when we lost him but they are still clear as day to me. I remember when the doctor told me he was sorry, that my son was gone. I remember Kyle holding me as I cried the first time. I remember the bed I laid in as I labored. I remember the darkened room, with classical music playing in the background, while I pushed my lifeless child into the world. I remember our parents coming in the room to meet him and say goodbye at the same time. I remember kissing his cold, soft cheek as I said goodbye. I remember the next morning I did not cry when we left the hospital but as soon as I walked into my house, I just held my mom and let loose for the first of many times in the next days. These memories will never go away. I hold them to me, as they are the only memories I got to have with my oldest child. As I mentioned last week, I will never get to have all those firsts in his life. His first smile, first laugh, first words, first steps, first day of school, first date. Instead I have lasts. The last moment I saw his face, the last time I kissed him, the last time I held him and handed him to the nurse. I know some days I seem perfectly “normal.” And sometimes I almost feel that way. I am back to enjoying my days at work and Kyle and I are stronger than ever in our relationship. But I will never move on. I will continue to ride the river and move forward.
Before you were born, I started dreaming of your life and what you would be like. I hoped that you would be smart and silly, like your cousins Henry and Caleb. We knew you would have a big head like your dad. I wondered if you would be as hard headed as him, as well. Your dad and I would fight over whether you would be a Packers fan or a Bears fan (a Packers fan, of course). You would love baseball and be a Cubs fan. I felt you move for the first time during the World Series. I hoped you would be tall and play football. Your dad made fun of me once while I was carrying you, because Eric Church’s “Like Jesus Does” came on the radio. I began to cry; (when didn’t I cry when I was carrying you?) That song was played when your dad danced with Nana at our wedding. It made me think of your wedding and how we would pick a song and dance. Now I wonder if some girl out there might take a little longer to find her soulmate because you aren’t here. I wonder if you would have been a good sleeper or if you would have kept me and your dad up all night. Would you have been a daddy’s boy or would you have preferred me? Would you have laughed and giggled with your Crazy Grandma? I wonder who you would have looked like. Your dad thought you had my lips and you definitely had his nose. I wonder if your feet would have continued to stay big. We aren’t sure where you got that trait. I wonder about the color of your eyes. I hoped you would be a snuggler and love to read books with me. I would have taught you to love Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. How could you not? They were the theme in your nursery. I will never know these things. But I do know that I will always love you. And you will always be my perfect, handsome, little man. Your dad loves you too. We will always keep a space for you in our hearts.