Two Years, Eight Months and 10 Days After Loss

Most parents would love to see their kids’ names in print. A marquee. A byline. A scorecard. A ballot. But you know where they don’t want to see it? On a gravestone.

Two years, eight months and 10 days later, Sarah and Benjamin’s marker came in and was placed on Friday. While we’ll have the official dedication soon, we went yesterday for Father’s Day to see it. And it is beautiful. Well, as beautiful as something signifying your dead children can be.

It wasn’t that it took two years, eight months and 10 days to make it. Rather, it was that Double A and I couldn’t move forward on it. It was like we were paralyzed by the emotion of it. Baby K’s was taken care of right away, as there was only one choice for her marker. My mom and aunt (who works for the cemetery) coordinated it, and Double A and I signed off on it. But with the twins, it just sat. A heavy guilt weight on our shoulders that we couldn’t move.

And then my Papa died in February, and going to his funeral also meant going back to the cemetery for the first time since we lost the twins. It’s not something I’m proud of, but at the same time, neither of us feels like we need to go there to remember them. That said, I hated that we had to view their temporarily marked grave for the first time in front of a crowd. I was ashamed, especially when the temporary marker spelled Sarah’s middle name Hannah instead of Hana.

Here we were, celebrating my 96-year-old Papa’s life, while a couple of plots over were our children who never took their first breath. It was an awful juxtaposition, and at the same time, we left the cemetery with a renewed sense of strength and courage. Sarah and Benjamin deserved to be recognized.

We hadn’t planned on the timing for Father’s Day, and quite frankly, I was surprised that Double A said he wanted to go to the cemetery. But there we were, with Baby Boy and Little Guy too. The sun from the blue skies made Sarah and Benjamin’s names and the bronze edging shine bright, and brought a warmth I didn’t think was possible. We had the boys gather rocks to place on Sarah and Benjamin’s joint marker, and on Baby K’s while we explained to them about their brother and sisters, and how we put rocks down to show that we had been there, and continue to carry on their memory.

Of course tears were shed. But for the first time, it wasn’t big, ugly tears. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that we are any less sad. Maybe it was that we got to go there on our own choosing, and not for another funeral. Maybe it was because we had our living boys in our arms, smothering them with hugs and kisses with all of the gratitude we feel for their existence. Or maybe it was because there was a huge sense of relief that Sarah and Benjamin’s name was finally in print, for all the world to see and know what we already knew: our children exist, and they matter.

Sounds of Pregnancy Loss Replayed

On my drive home from work, the song Breathe by Alexi Murdoch came on, and it actually took my breath away. You see, not long after we lost the twins, I came across this song, and used it as a way to remind myself to step back, take a breath, and realize that somehow, someway I was going to get through this and be okay. It was one of many songs that helped to get me through the darkest of days.

My iTunes must have been onto something because next up came Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, whose lyric, “We could have had it all.” used to taunt me. Then, for good measure, Hasa Diga Eebowai from The Book of Mormon came on. It has some choice words for G-d, which, at a time when we didn’t know what to believe in, resonated with us (and truthfully just made us laugh).

Listening to this trilogy of songs, nearly two and a half years later, brought me right back to the exact moments: Every feeling. Every sadness. Every anxiety. Every bit of grief that encompassed me then, flooded my back over me once again. I almost had to pull the car over.

Music has always been such a meaningful part of my life. It’s something I’ve relied on as my trusty companion. It has gotten me through, and taken me back to so many moments—good and bad—with a single note. And sitting there, listening to these songs, I realized just how powerful music was for me during that time. While I don’t want to be reminded of all that pain, suffering and sadness (many of these songs I still can’t won’t listen to), I realize just how far we’ve come. I’m reminded of our perseverance. Of our determination. Of our survival. And I’m reminded that we wouldn’t give up on ourselves, or our dreams. So when John Hiatt’s Rest of the Dream came on next, I was a puddle.

I’ve listened to that song numerous times, but apparently never heard it until that instant. These days, I often feel like I’m living in a dream. I look at our boys and can’t believe they are really here. I think of all we’ve been through and can’t believe Double A and I are still here. But they are. And we are too. I don’t know what part of my dream this is, but I do know that the sounds of the past never leave you, even as the new soundtrack plays on.

Does music affect you? What are your songs?

 

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Adoption, Loss & Infertility: The Community Speaks Again

For the past nine years, Mel over at Stirrup Queens has put together the Creme de la Creme. It’s a collection of bloggers’ favorite posts from the past year, and an incredible showcase of the adoption, loss and infertility community.

I’m proud to once again be able to share my experiences over there, but more so, to “meet” and read meaningful stories from inspiring people. We are a large community, and each year, this is a reminder that we are not alone.

This year’s list highlights 87 stories. Is yours one of them? Will you join me in checking them out?

Today. And Always.

It seems like now everything has it’s day: National Doughnut Day. Left-Handers Day. Talk Like a Pirate Day. I get it. It creates awareness and builds community. But does having so many days take away from days with bigger meaning? Now don’t get me wrong. I’m left-handed. I love me some doughnuts. And I may, on occasion, talk like a pirate (OK, not really, but I find it funny when others do). I just wonder if “days” are the latest in the “everyone gets a ribbon at field day” mentality.

At the same time, who am I to judge? If it’s important to people, so be it. What actually gets to me is when these fun, playful days receive more coverage than days with bigger meaning. Days whose subjects are taboo.

You see, today’s my day. And the day for all of the moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who have experienced the loss of a child through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. It’s part of an awareness month, designated by Ronald Reagan back in 1988, where countless babies are acknowledged and remembered. Babies whose stories had been previously hushed because no one talks about baby loss. Because those same moms, dads, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have been told that they shouldn’t talk about it. Sadly, it is this mentality that has led many, like myself, to feel like we’re alone.

But you know what? We’re not alone. And you know what else? More and more of us are not afraid to talk about it, and write about it. More and more of us are raising awareness every day. We’re helping one another by letting each other, and the world, know it’s not only OK to talk about, but we need to talk about it. And by doing so, we’re honoring the memory of our babies, and all babies gone too soon.

So tonight at 7pm, as we celebrate the 3rd anniversary of Will CarryOn, we’ll light our candles for the wave of light. But today, and everyday, we stand alongside all of the families who have lost their precious children.

For our Baby K, Sarah, Benjamin and the four we never met, we remember.

The Replacement Child

Two weeks after we lost Sarah and Benjamin, we received a call that we were matched on the adoption front. Double A and I had mixed emotions at the time. Of course we were thrilled at the prospect of finally bringing a child home with us, but at the same time, we were still in such deep mourning, not to mention shock. Our heads were all over the place. On some levels it didn’t seem fair to the twins for us to explore this opportunity. And at the same time, our longing to parent our children made it clear that we needed to. On our way home from meeting the Mother, I remember telling Double A, if this works out, I certainly hope people don’t say to us, “See, everything worked out after all.” That adoption fell through, but the sentiment remained.

Baby Boy arrived some seven months later, and while no one said it outright, I got the sense that in the minds of some family and friends, that all was now well and right in the world. Fast forward to the Little Guy’s arrival, and the everything happens for a reason/doesn’t it all work out in the end thoughts were echoed time and time again.

For some reason, there’s this notion of the “Replacement Child” after loss. As if having another child erases all of the pain and suffering we, as bereaved parents, go through in losing a child(ren). As if having another child could make up for of the child you lost. These children are our family. They are the children we fell in love with the moment we discovered we were pregnant. Children for whom we had already developed hopes and dreams. Children we thought we’d be able to meet, watch grow, and build lives of their own. They are not replaceable.

The Replacement Child isn’t always a new child. I know of parents who already had living children at home before their loss being told, “at least you have another at home.” Really? Would someone say that to a sibling if their brother or sister died? Or to a child if one of their parents died? I don’t even think someone would say that to the parent of an older child who had passed. So why is it OK to say that to the parent of a child lost through miscarriage or stillbirth? Let me be clear, it is not OK to say this. Ever.

Today is the second anniversary of Sarah and Benjamin’s birth and passing. Two years later, and the wound feels just as fresh. The grief just as deep. And our love, and longing for them to be here alongside us remains just as strong. We are grateful for our boys we have at home, but they are not replacements. Just much welcomed additions.

Have you experience Replacement Child “Syndrome”? How have you dealt with it?

 

Cries of Joy

It is with great excitement, a little shock and much gratitude that I share that Little Guy is here. Healthy. Breathing. Living. Those first screams were the best music Double A and I have ever heard.

As you can imagine, there are so many emotions surrounding his arrival and homecoming, something I’ll share more on soon. In the meantime, I wanted to thank everyone for all of the love and support along the way. You’ll never know how much it means to me, or how much it helped me stay sane.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Guilty as Self-Charged

The self-talk that comes along with pregnancy after loss takes me down many dark avenues. Wait, who am I kidding? The self-talk that comes along with life after loss has messed with me immensely. Within the confines of my own mind, I’m the doubter, the fighter, the accused, the dreamer, the fraud, the pleader, the failure, and the cheerleader to name a few. I had talked previously about the external guilt I feel along with this pregnancy, but on some levels, that has nothing on the internal guilt.

This internal guilt has lived within me from my first loss in May 2008. It’s the “I know I don’t have control over what’s happening, but could I have done something differently or better to save my babies?” thoughts that replay in my mind. Thoughts that got louder with each loss. That same guilt plays into the sense that while I realize that I did nothing wrong, my body still “failed” me. As a woman, I’m supposed to be able to do this. But I know “supposed to’s” aren’t reality.

There’s another level of guilt that has been building within me, especially lately. Or maybe it is more regret: not taking pictures with Baby K, Sarah and Benjamin, and not yet looking at the pictures that were taken of Sarah and Benjamin in the hospital. It’s hard to believe that after everything we’ve gone through, I didn’t know about organizations like Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. That I didn’t think to ask that we capture the moment, as painful as it had been, to have a physical reminder of us as a family, and their sweet faces, rather than desperately hoping to be able to hang onto the mental photos. Maybe the nurses asked us. But then again, I think it comes down to your mindset at the time.

First of all, there’s the shock. Then add to that pain and anger, and sheer disbelief. I remember needing to spend time with each of them, holding them, apologizing, kissing them, telling each how much we loved, and will always love them, and apologizing some more. I remember not knowing how long we should spend, and feeling like I should hand them off sooner than later. I remember my biggest fear at the time, that they were just going to be placed, no dumped, in a casket without care. And I regret not asking to bathe them—a ritual of honor within the Jewish faith, and a final act of physical love I could’ve done as a parent. But then again, it comes down to your mindset at the time, right?

I feel guilt for not going to the cemetery. Or for not yet having a headstone for Sarah and Benjamin. And at the same time, I realize that I carry each of them with me each day. That for Double A and me, we don’t need to go someplace to remember, or honor their memory. Yet that guilt still resides in my mind, and weighs heavy in my heart.

My guilt is fluid. Becoming pregnant again after so many losses has brought it to a whole other level. It’s the guilt of seemingly being able to carry this baby when I wasn’t able to hang onto the others. I once again feel like I’ve let them down. As I’ve mentioned before, while I’m completely grateful, it is hard not to think why now? Before, the thought was that my body just was not able to do so, but now…who knows. I’ve spent so many years looking for an answer, and now I’m afraid to ask the question.

I find that with each passing day, and each feeling of this Little Guy move, I wonder what it would have felt like and been like with the others. People ask me if I feel different this time around. And the truth is yes, because I never got to feel any of this previously. It’s exciting and amazing, and heartbreakingly sad. It is a bittersweet feeling where I try to embrace each movement, and focus on my gratitude for getting this experience. I guess on some levels I’m trying to make up for all of the experiences I previously missed out on, both for me and our babies. It’s like I want them to know that I would have embraced this experience with them as well.

Just like I’ve learned to live day-by-day with the grief of losing children, I’ve learned—and am continuing to learn—to live with the varying degrees of guilt. I know there is no making up for the losses. And that I can’t go back and change things. That said, I’m trying hard to refocus that guilt into gratitude to make the most of our life, and our family, where it is right now.

Do you still carry guilt and/or regrets? How have you dealt with that?