Friday, March 21, 2014

What do you say to a grieving Mom?

Almost got out of bed last night to write this post but I decided not was already past 2am.  Here are some thoughts on what I have (or haven't) experienced.  Some of you might relate and some of you will benefit from getting a better understanding of grieving a child.  Please if you have anything to add to this "list" just let me know!  I tried to think of every option.

What NOT to say to a grieving Mom.

1. First and foremost, don't tell this woman she is not a mom.  Just because you don't physically see a baby does not mean she is not one!  And even if you don't say it, don't make or let her believe that statement is true.

2. "God has a plan!" or "It's all in God's timing."  Don't even mention God and His timing in any context.  God's timing allowed that woman to become pregnant in the first place.  That brings up way too many topics that you don't even want to go to.  Or do you?  Do you really want to talk to this woman about how God's timing was for her child to die at that exact moment?  I know that might sound extreme, but it's just as extreme as telling her "God has a plan!"  Even though you probably don't see it that way.

3.  "Everything happens for a reason."  Instead of putting God in their response, they just go to the typical phrase to try to make you feel better.  Instead it just crushes you into your grieving hole even more.  Maybe they don't believe in God, so that's the next best thing to tell you.  Maybe you don't believe in God, but whatever you or they do or don't believe...what matters is your response to their loss.  They just lost a baby.  A life.  Memories.  A story in their life is forever changed.  Life continues to go on, but they have still lost.  Something is missing for them.  They have to keep going but they can't.  It's like telling the world to stop spinning.  That's what grieving feels like when someone tells you something that is hard to hear.  I can't stop my grieving, but YOU can stop from telling the Mom these crazy phrases that mean nothing.  Because that statement "happens for a reason" is not true.  

4. "When are you going to try again?" or "Are you going to start trying again soon?"  I've honestly heard this before, and it didn't bother me.  But that's because it was from people who truly care about my journey in motherhood.  They have sat beside me in the hardest moments listening to my heart.  With these specific people I know where these questions are coming from, they are truly just figuring out my heart.  They know it's part of the grieving and it was their way of acknowledging the step I was in.  But if I hear it from someone who hasn't even talked to me before about my loss, I'm hurt.  If it's from a stranger I'm confused.  I have a baby who is nearly 18 months old, why would I be so urgent to try again right now?  I usually just brush it off and tell them we're busy with the remodeling of our new home.  If you are going to ask these questions to a grieving mom, make sure you've been there every step of the way.

5. It's time to move on.  If a grieving mom mentions her loss, don't give her the impression she should be pass those thoughts.  She has the right to ache and grieve whenever she needs to.  Like how often does a mom with a newborn want to share her baby's updates and pictures?  Do you think anything of it?  (ha, maybe a little bit if it goes over board.)  But grief comes in waves.  Don't tell the ocean to stop bringing the high tide in, it just can't be done.

6. Just think of happier times.  Really?  Tell that to someone who just lost their best friend to a drunk driver.

7. Try to focus on your babies that ARE alive.  Wait, what?  Did you just say that?  Which kid(s) are replacing the one(s) I lost?  My daughter could never --will ever-- take the place of Alex or Taylor.  If you had multiples would you just push some aside because it was too hard?  Am I supposed to forget and just "let go" of the babies I have lost?  I'm a mother.....

8. "My friend had the same thing happen to her and now she has healthy baby!"  Wait a second, did you just make this conversation about your friend?  A grieving Mom does not need to hear how great someone else's life is going.  Good for that friend of yours, but I'm sure she didn't want to hear those same words when she had lost a baby before.....

9. "You are still young."  Sure.  But what are you going to say when I'm 40 and I'm still grieving this baby?

10. "Enjoy just being married..."  Oh, wait.  Did I mention something about my marriage?  As long as we're there.....this loss has changed my marriage so much.  Thanks for reminding me of how hard this is on my marriage.  And for those that it hasn't hurt the marriage, I'm sure you're not focusing on all the good moments right now.  Yes, you can run to the grocery store any time of the day or night.  You don't have to search babysitters.  You don't have little sleep because of a sick or teething baby.  But you are loosing sleep because you think something is terribly wrong with you and your body and your hubby can sense that.  Must I say more?

11. Don't ask "How are you doing?"  Change that phrase to something more specific...I'll add more below.....

So, what DO YOU SAY to a grieving Momma?

1. If you don't understand, if you've never been through that, if you are not a mother you won't understand.  Just say, "I'm so so sorry.  I don't know what words will help but just know I'm praying for you/thinking of you."  (Side note: Don't say you're praying for them if you truly are not.  Let them know how often and when you are.  Honesty is key.)

2. Tell me what I can do for you. (Maybe the grieving Mom could just use a coffee/ice cream date.  Maybe the Mom would like someone at her house during the day for the normal annoying laundry and cleaning day.  Or maybe just bring over some food and eat junk food.  And remember she might not mention what you could do for her, but you be the one to set up something.)

3. If you are close to this Mom, be the one to be at every step of her grieving.  Even if you're not a Mom yourself.  Be willing to hear her latest update thoughts, listen to her pain, and make sure you're aware of the times that are the hardest.

4. Like mentioned above "how are you doing?" is an open question that just confuses me.  Be more specific.  Some people might be fine with that question, but I never know how to answer.  Maybe try "how are you feeling" or "what are you thinking about today?"  It's about hearing the Mom's grieving process and if you listen carefully you might find out where she is that day.  It will help you walk her through the process.  She'll feel closer to you if you come across as caring rather than judging her grief.

Overall, just be open and let HER SPEAK.  Some times people worry about what to say or what not to say....but mostly what's best is to just listen.

Comment or email if you have any thoughts or things to add.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

September Grieving

Remember back in September when I shared with people I was expecting again?  After losing Taylor, I felt I was given a second chance.  This time was different.  When I had a day where I started to not feel "as sick" I thought positively because I had "mom-instinct."  Because how could you lose two babies in one year?  Why would I have to miscarry again?  I lost one baby a couple months ago, no way was I going through all this sickness again for nothing.....

But it wasn't nothing.

After Labor Day weekend of a lot of activity I was sensing something was wrong.  I had to deal with the fact....there WAS something wrong.  AGAIN.  I had to be off the couch all weekend and walking around a lot and I wasn't nearly as sick as I should be.  I tried to remind myself "it's a different pregnancy" and "God is blessing you with a break from as intense sickness because of all the stuff going on."   For some people, that busy weekend would just cause a pregnant woman tired or maybe a little nauseous.  But I should have felt near death.  And I didn't.  I had moments of nausea but nothing near what I was with Ellie's pregnancy.

I had that third pregnancy because there was a baby.  On September 10th Jon and I had an ultrasound appointment to check on our baby.  I should have been 12 weeks along.  Instead the nurse said I had a baby measuring 8 weeks 4 days along and no heartbeat.

But there was a baby.

This time there was a baby to see in the little sac.  A baby who had fingers and toes.  A baby who had a little body.  Some day I was hoping to see the smile.  His/her first steps and first words.  Waiting anxiously to see sibling bond.  But the closest bond I had with Alex was seeing him/her on the ultrasound that day.  I never got to see my baby in person.  I remember seeing Jon hunched over keeping his thoughts inside to allow me to comprehend everything.  Once it was just us we talked about it.  Jon mentioned how he was surprised to see a baby (we lost Taylor before we ever got to see a baby on the ultrasound).  I was just stunned.

Why didn't my mom instincts know we were loosing the baby?

The only answer I can give myself is timing is everything.  How would things turn out differently had I gone in early?  Would I have heard a heartbeat?  Would I have found out we lost the baby sooner and then had to deal with weeks of just waiting.  Would I question what step to take next?  Did I go in at that exact moment because if I went in any sooner the outcome would have been harder or longer?  Did I do everything in my power to help my baby live?  Did I do everything in my human ability to keep holding on?  Did I try to think realistically or did I give up?

The more I questioned every thought the more upset and confused I became.

Jon continued to calm me and say, "There's nothing you could have done to save your baby.  Something just didn't go right.  Your body needed more time."

I believed him.  I had to let go.  My grieving wasn't over--far from it--but I knew I had to let go of blaming myself.  If I held on to the thoughts of negativity about myself as a Mom I wasn't able to fully be a mom to the daughter I already had.  No child could take the place of the two babies I just lost.  But I couldn't blame myself for something I had no control over.  My life wasn't over, nor was my babies.  I just would meet them at a different time then most mothers get to.  I was in the "miscarried club."  A club I knew many moms were already a part of.  One I never thought I would be.

Grieving came in waves after that process.  But it was worth it to have that ultrasound.  I got to "meet" my baby.  My hubby had a chance to see our baby as well.  It was the closest to physical meeting as we were going to get.

Days later he showed me how much he was willing to support me as the Dad.  He helped me during the labor.  He supported me in my decisions on what to do when the labor didn't complete itself.  I had support from him.

Then today.  Today I get the wave....39 weeks along I would have been.  I would be sitting on the couch, not able to see my swollen feet, but anxiously waiting to meet our baby.  I picture Ellie pointing to my big belly saying, "Baby!"  I wonder what life would be like.  It would be hard, but it would be precious.  I wonder if it would have been a boy or girl.  I silently tell myself I'm glad I never knew.  It would make it That. Much. Harder.

Because for now I just think of our baby Alex.  I think of sweet newborn smells.  Newborn cuddles.  I miss that.  But I miss our babies even more.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Survival Mode

This night a week ago I was packing like crazy preparing to move into my not-yet-ready-to-completely-move-into-yet house.  People questioned why move in before it was truly ready?  There were plenty of reasons, but not worth mentioning right now.

Overall though it was worth to have our little three-some family back together.

Jon had been living at the house for quite awhile and working on finishing up the bathroom.

The day we moved in the bathroom looked like:

We have a "usable" typical basement bathroom (aka it has plumbing) in the basement.  So those 5am morning potty breaks you have to go to the cold basement to go.  Or showering with no ceiling above you (Did I mention spiders possibly attacking your head?  yes I have a terrible mind that is always messing with me).  There's also the fact that there is constant water draining from a pipe from outside down the drain where you are standing in the shower.  Dirty water.  Yep, my life.  But overall, worth it.  Somehow I got some inner strength and just dealt with the tough circumstances.  The benefits outweighed the annoyance.  I know other people have to deal with worse, but this type of thing was stretching me.

There's something bigger out there that is more worth IT then my own comfort zone.

I sucked it up and made "friends" with the fact I might not be the only one down there while going to the bathroom.  And dealt with the fears of my comfort level of feeling totally clean after my shower.

I felt good about things.  Went grocery shopping, unpacked numerous boxes and watched as my daughter's knees got filthy from dusty floors.  I did what you do when you move into a new house.  Tried to put my "Family's touches" into each room.  I forced myself to live in the moment.  Take courage and know it was just a season of my life.  Nothing could be worse than 2013 I kept telling myself.  Giving birth to a miscarriage is worse.  Far worse.  Two of them is unbearable.  I already did that.  What could be worse?

Then Saturday morning happened.  I told Jon to watch Ellie while I showered.  But then I had to yell for him.  The water wasn't going down the drain.  The result: the toilet was backing up into the shower drain and clogging it.  So now we can't shower and can't use the toilet.  I was standing in the shower (hadn't started cleaning process yet) and only had enough time to wet my hair.

Later that day we had my sister's family and friends come and help us with stuff on our house.  Then later that night Jon informs me we'll take turns driving to a gas station to go to the bathroom.  Because when you have a one-year old sleeping you can't both leave!

I quickly jump into survival mode.  I try to look like I got things together but I do what I can.  I bawl on my way to Target.  (Why not go somewhere fun when you are bummed and have to use a public restroom?  And by the way, when did a public restroom finally make me feel comfortable?  They use to gross me out!  Ever had that feeling after being away from home and happily getting back in your comfy bed and sitting on your OWN toilet?  Just me?)

After Target I decide to head to Walmart, since Target was closing.  Might as well stay out of the house since Jon was working in the bathroom and there was nothing I could do but sit around and think about not having to pee.  I walk outside in the cold, snow.  I think to myself, really could it get any worse?  If you know me at all, you know I don't like snow.  I didn't even like it as a kid.  Seriously.  The whole idea of snow on Christmas isn't really that big of a deal to me.  It just becomes dirty brown stuff everywhere.  Anyways, I get in the car and the car wont start.  I tell myself, apparently it CAN get worse.  A second try.  Still wont.  Third times the charm.  I thank the Lord that He has spared me this one thing and I drove off.

Remember it's been a few days since I've had a decent shower and I'm in survival mode.  My daughter is eating food I never thought she would be eating yet (more on that later) and I was having to pee in a bucket the following morning.  I let my control and comfort zone sit back and chill.  I had no other choice.  But God knew.  He knew this was happening.  He knew what would break me.  I broke down and when I got home I told Jon I just needed to get ready for bed and relax.

Got my toothbrush from the kitchen drawer and I brushed my teeth wondering what neighbors could see me through my kitchen window.  I wonder what my 16-year old self would think if I could look ahead and see what my life was like at 25?

I would have been shocked.  This girl loves her comfort.  This woman loves control.  I can hardly even type that cus I cringe.  but you all know that feeling.  The freeing feeling to say it out loud.

The control of what your kids eat or drink. (gasp my baby girl doesn't only eat organic anymore!)

The control of not letting her eat messy.  Saturday night I got to my breaking point and yelled, "ELLIE!" Right to my daughter because she wanted to feed herself applesauce but wasn't making it to her mouth.  Instead getting it all over her, the floor, and table.  I looked at her sweet, smiling self and walked away and sat on the couch with tears in my eyes.  My comfort level had been stretched.  I let her eat by herself and make a mess of things.  I had to let go. (insert popular Frozen song here.)  I was nearly shaken of anger.  At my self.  Not at her.  Why was I letting it get to me?  I was trying to control the only part of my life I felt I had control over.  My daughter.

As soon as I let the control go, my anger calmed down.  Jon returned from the basement and looked at me.  He knew we needed to discuss the situation.  I told him, "I'm sorry.  I yelled at her and had to step away.  It was getting me so upset to see her making a mess.  I was trying to control something that didn't need to be done."

My life is a mess right now.  But I have to LET IT GO!

And that's why I say, "Survival Mode."  I'm doing what I need to do to survive.

Step One: Discuss it with my spouse.

Step Two: Make a plan.

Step Three: Act on that plan.

Step Four: Continue to communicate and let go of control even if it is uncomfortable for my comfort level.  I can't do it alone.  I need the Lord's help.

I can't control the bathroom situation.  I can't control my daughter's desire to feed herself when I know she can't do it yet.  I can't make our bathroom get finished faster.  But what I can do is allow Ellie to learn from her mistakes and ask for help when she so desires.  I can thank my parent's for their hospitality and functioning bathrooms and washing machine.  I can let go of my desire to have a ceiling over my shower.  I can let go and fill my life with Godly things rather than earthly matters.

On this earth LOOKS matter, CONTROL is important, and COMFORT is a key factor.  But God doesn't look at the outer part of us.  He doesn't focus on that.  He wants our HEARTS.  And my heart is bitter, angry, and confused. I desire peace, compassion, and so THANKFUL for His mercies new EVERY morning.

Which reminds me...tonight I handed my daughter a fork and let her eat on her own.  It felt good. :)

What is your heart telling you to let go of?  Do you have comfort struggles like me?  Have you ever been "in survival mode"?  Would love to hear your story.

You can read more about my journey through COMFORT struggles HERE and HERE .  They will both help explain more.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hide 'n Seek Toddler Style

Ellie turned 17 months old a few days ago.

Hide 'n Seek is a fun game....except when you're calling for your daughter and she doesn't understand to say anything back.  And there you are...searching aimlessly throughout the house.

So here's a post of all my daughter's favorite locations in my parent's house.

This only seemed right since we're moving on Monday!  She'll have a whole new house to explore (and of course plenty of boxes)!

The Kitchen Pantry:  What toddler wouldn't want to explore this though?  She likes taking things off the shelves, grabbing water bottles, etc.  Then she crawls around the house with one of the objects.  She also knows that's where her favorite snacks are and whenever the door doesn't get shut completely....she crawls in there to check things out.  Even though her food is too high for her to reach.

Laundry Room: My mom and I have set up baskets in their laundry room to organize all the loads.  Ellie likes to help me fold laundry by handing me the items from the basket.  However she doesn't understand the baskets of clothes in the laundry room are dirty. :)

Dining Room Cabinets:  Honestly, any cabinet is awesome in her mind.  It's treasures behind closed doors.  One day she suddenly got interested in everything behind closed doors that I heard a noise on the floor.  I could tell it was breakable items.  I found my daughter playing with fragile overflow from the kitchen my mom owns from the cabinets under the window.  Put up the safety stuff and now she still goes there but can't figure out how to get into them anymore.
*Bonus: If you look closely you'll see a newborn picture of Ellie that was taken when she was two days old in the hospital.

Computer Wires in the Office: Enough said.

The Office Desk & Keyboard:  She loves hearing the noises it makes when she just holds down one button forever.  Any keyboard she can get to is the Best. Thing. Ever. in her mind.  And this mom's worst nightmare (or the reason she will go bald).

Parent's Bedroom Mirror: What baby doesn't like mirrors?  Especially a BIG one where all she has to do is crawl up to it.  She points at her reflection and says "baby!" :)  She also looks at herself and makes cute faces, sometimes dances, or puts her wet fingers all over it.  In a few days my mom will miss those finger prints.

Parent's Bathroom Whirlpool Tub:  It's perfect for Ellie to stand up and still see over the edge.  Plus she knows how to say "bath."

Buffet: Again,  it has cabinets.  Breakables inside.  Grandma's treasures are endless.

Living Room Window & Plants: (p.s. notice the awesome new paint color!)
One day I hung up the phone and found my daughter eating dirt from one of these plants.  One day I found my daughter eating one of the leaves from these plants.  One day I found my daughter joyfully looking outside the window.

Living Room Window & Screen: She reaches this window and bangs on the screen.  The sound is music to her ears.  I (honestly) prefer drums.  (Maybe I should take that back though?  Sis how does Abe do with drums?)

There was this one time I had a basket of hangers all organized neatly, going the same direction.....

....and thanks to the fun stuff in the pantry I was able to take all the pictures.

Until next update on Ellie.....packing more boxes and getting ready to move in less than two days!!! WAAAHHHAAAAAAATTTT?????