As the year comes to a close and Kenley’s second birthday speeds toward me like a fucking bullet train, I am so thankful for the donations we will be making to the hospital in her memory.
Most days (now) I wake up and feel like I’ve lived a really bad dream for the past (almost) 18 months. It just doesn’t seem like this can be MY life. This type of stuff happens to other people, not to me. Not to my family; we had already faced so much when we found out Kenley died. How could we be dealt this hand, too? Why me? Why Shane? Why Landon? But most of all, why Kenley? My sweet girl. My innocent little baby…what did she do to deserve this?
I often think of her, and what she would be doing these days. I find myself looking at her photo while feeding Alden. Staring at her, staring at both of them, hoping to see a similarity that I can cling to in my living child’s face. I usually come up empty handed. Alden is her own person, and I know that, but I wish I could see Kenley in her.
People have asked me if I’ve called Alden by Kenley’s name. I haven’t yet, but it is only because I consciously tell myself that it is not her name. Every time I speak Alden’s name, Kenley’s name comes to my lips first. Always. I’m pretty sure this is normal, and I’m also sure it will be a life long battle in some capacity.
I know that as Alden becomes her own person I will be able to separate them more. I only knew Kenley inside of me, and outside, even though she had passed away, for a few hours. I won’t ever really know her, because I already know all there is to know about her. I know the foods she liked, and the music she liked.
She loved Mexican food, and Ceasar Salad from Panera Bread.
She loved Christmas music.
But, I will never know her favorite color, or if she would have been tall like me. What color eyes would she have had at Landon’s age? These are things I will always have to wonder about. I will get to see Alden become her own person, and every single day I am so thankful for that, but you know what? It still stings. I am not ok. I am not “better” because she is here; I am different, sure, but not better. My life will never be “better”- I’ve lost a child and that is something you cannot replace.
Alden does not take Kenley’s place in my life or in our family.
I read a quote the other day that said “I think hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go”.
This rings so true with me. No matter the happiness I feel, no matter the joy and light that Alden brings to me, or the length of time that passes since Kenley’s birth, the scars of going through the deepest darkest hell are still going to be there. I will be carrying the aftermath, my new life, the “hell”, with me forever.
This is my life, forever. Nothing can ever change that. Nothing can bring Kenley back, so this is it.
I am the parent of a dead child.
It feels like such a cop out to say “you will never understand how it feels until it happens to you”, but that is the only way to properly convey this type of pain. Many can only sympathize, and there are few that can fully empathize with the pain. I believe truly that it is too hard for people to actually empathize because no one wants to put themselves in our shoes. Why would they? Why would anyone want to truly try and feel the pain that accompanies losing a child? I’ve been thinking about a few things regarding what I wish people knew about losing a child, so I decided I would write about them here. What better place, right?
• Just because time passes, doesn’t mean that I am (or things are) better.
The grief of losing a child is not linear. There are days where I feel great, and there are days where I honestly wish I could just be with my Daughter at all costs. The pain will never “go away”. Sure, it might lessen, change, or I might just become better at carrying my grief on a daily basis, but it will NEVER go away. If you think by looking at me that I’m feeling better, you’re terribly mistaken. I am missing my Daughter; she died inside of me and I couldn’t do anything to save her. It’s not a pain that someone gets over, ever. The guilt is no joke. The love I have in my heart for her is not a flame that can be put out, and I would hope that everyone understands that. I will grieve differently day to day, from now until the day that I die, and people need to understand that. Sometimes you should really just give me a fucking pat on the back for even getting out of bed.
Yes. Still. Even after a year. And probably for the rest of my life.
• Losing a child doesn’t have to destroy your marriage like statistics say.
One of the scariest statistics I read after our daughter was stillborn was that up to 80 percent of marriages end in divorce after the loss of a child. I remember reading this percentage, and then re-reading it, to convince myself that I’d read it correctly. 80 percent?! Was that even possible?–Paul (a guest post on still standing)
After Kenley died, I never wanted Shane to leave my side. I had to be held at night to sleep. I needed him to be near me at all times. He was my security blanket, for lack of better words, and still is. I know that many people feel differently about their relationships after loss. Some women feel that their husbands are “over” the loss, or that their feelings aren’t taken into consideration. I’ve personally talked to many loss moms who feel this way. Some say that their relationship suffers in that they can’t talk about the loss to their husbands, for whatever reason. Some mention they don’t feel attractive to their husbands anymore, which makes their sex life suffer, which inevitably makes them feel sad and alone.
I asked Shane’s opinion on the subject and he had some really interesting things to say. He mentioned to me that there were times around the 5-6 month mark where he started to feel better, but I was still feeling intense sadness. He told me that he remembers making a decision to never make me feel bad for feeling how I did. He would consciously make an effort to allow me to cry if I needed to, and to not get frustrated if I was having a bad day, and he wasn’t. I’ve read that some spouses feel resentment toward their spouse for having bad days (while they are having a good day), and “bringing them down”; Shane agreed with this, and even offered up a few times that he felt that way.
We also discussed opening up to your spouse. If you’re feeling something, there is a really good chance that they are feeling the same way too. The triggers, the grief, it’s all different for everyone, but who can you relate to better than the other person who is feeling the loss of your child as intensely as you are? Don’t keep it bottled up.
This is why I love my Husband. He is open with me about this stuff; the real stuff that sucks to talk about. He knows he can tell me anything, and that I will not be offended that he may have been angry at me one day when I had a bad day and he didn’t. It’s okay to have bad days– your child died, it’s fully expected. We both wanted our marriage to work after the death of Kenley; Living without one another was never an option. It’s been different, sure, but in a good way; our relationship is stronger. I can sit here and honestly say that I have NEVER once felt like a divorce was even an option for us and Shane agrees with this 100%.
• Just because we are expecting again does not mean this baby will replace the child we lost.
I’ve read a lot (A LOOOOOT) online about rainbow babies. I’ve read that they can bring you intense joy; joy you never expected to feel again. I’ve read that loss moms can experience a wave of emotions when they finally hold their rainbow baby. Emotions that they’ve been suppressing for months while carrying their rainbow. The raw grief comes out full force again. When my Daughter is born (even saying the word “when” is hard because I cannot guarantee she will come into this world alive) I fully expect to feel a million emotions. This pregnancy has not been “normal” and her birth will not be normal. Subsequently her life will be as normal as I can manage to make it (while I always live one foot in joy, and one foot in sorrow). She will know about her older sister, and I will always make it a point to not let Kenley’s death shadow the birth of her. But, I’m sure it will be extremely hard.
Kenley was planned. She was wanted, and we tired for a really long time to conceive her. For her to be ripped away from us, so close to her birth, is cruel in ways that I have no words to explain. This baby will not take that sadness away from us. I will still be sad, but will have a living baby to hold. I will still walk into the nursery and think of the child who never got to see it. I will dress this baby in Kenley’s clothes, all the while knowing that they are brand new hand-me-downs. Life is never easy; life after grief is even more messy.
• PTSD in relation to losing a child is very real.
There have been many times since losing Kenley where PTSD hits me hard. I know there are people out there who think this (and all mental health issues) are not real; that they don’t deserve to be talked about and we should be ashamed of them. Well, those people are assholes. Those people have never had a bad day in their life, so its inconceivable that others could possibly feel anything other than great. There have been nights where I lay in bed, reliving the worst day of my life while listening to Shane’s rhythmic breathing as he sleeps next to me. It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t stop my brain from taking me back to that triage room, and hearing the words.
Yesterday in the shower I was rinsing my hair and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I saw myself in the hospital shower, having to be washed by my husband because I physically could not move my arms due to shock. PTSD has no mercy. It hits you whenever it damn well pleases. Shane chimed in on this subject as well. He told me that he’s noticed it’s a lot harder than he ever expected it to be when co-workers and friends talk about their newborns or grandchildren. He went on to say that you want to be included and don’t want people to feel awkward talking about these things in front of you, but at the same time it’s extremely hard to hear. I think he was truly surprised at how sad/anxious he felt when he experienced his first “trigger” out side of the normal ones (babies in the store, etc etc). It goes to show you that PTSD can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime.
I found this on Grief Speaks and I think it’s an important piece to add to this post just incase someone is wondering if they might have PTSD related to child loss:
- Flashbacks (reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating)
- Bad dreams or nightmares
- Frightening thoughts
2. Avoidance Symptoms:
- Staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience
- Feeling emotionally numb
- Feeling strong guilt, depression or worry
- Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past
- Having trouble remembering the dangerous event
Things that remind a person of the traumatic event can trigger avoidance symptoms. These symptoms may cause a person to change his or her personal routine. For example, after a bad car crash, a person who usually drives may want to avoid driving or even riding in a car.
3. Hyperarousal symptoms:
- Being easily startled
- Feeling tense or “on edge”
- Having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts Hyperarousal symptoms are usually constant, instead of being triggered by things that remind one of the traumatic event. They can make the person feel stressed and angry. These symptoms may make it hard to do daily tasks, such as sleeping, eating or concentrating. It is natural to have some of these symptoms after any dangerous event. Sometimes people have very serious symptoms that go away after a few weeks. This is called acute stress disorder, or ASD. When the symptoms last for more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, they might by PTSD. Some with PTSD don’t show any symptoms for weeks or even months.
• Some things are always going to be hard for us now.
Seeing babies, attending Holiday functions, or get togethers, or seeing children around/younger than Kenley’s age are just a few things that will always be hard for us. Like our Grief, I’m sure these things will change in intensity, and possibly become less triggering as time goes on. This, however, does not mean that I want to see your “baby bump” photos, or that I am ok with seeing your child who was born after my child died. There are few women who I am ok with seeing the above things, and they know who they are because I’ve told them.
I don’t mean to sound like an awful person, but it is what it is. I didn’t make the rules of grief, people. I know that there are some people who understand us not wanting to be around their children, and they respect that. I am so thankful for those people. Then, there are people who think it’s okay to send you a Holiday card with their newborn baby’s photo on the cover. THIS IS NOT OK. This has not happened to me, thank sweet baby Jesus, but it has happened (more than I can actually believe) to friends of mine who have lost their children. Getting a photo of your newborn child, on what should be our child’s first Christmas, is not something that should happen-ever.
Please tell me on what planet that is ok? Oh wait, you can’t because it’s not.
I’m pretty sure I won’t ever send out Christmas cards again due to the fact I think I jinxed my pregnancy with Kenley by including her name before she was born.
I know that grieving a child comes in all different shapes and forms. I know that everything I posted won’t necessarily apply to you, and your situation, but if even one person reads this and feels like they’re not alone, my job is done. That’s why I started this blog. I need people to know that they are not alone. There are so many women who came before me, and unfortunately, there will be so many who come after me.
You are not alone.
January 1st 2016 I woke up and my boobs felt like they were going to explode; rock hard boulders. Apparently they hadn’t gotten the memo that my Daughter died, and they decided they would still produce milk to feed the child I didn’t have.
This was an awful way to begin a year– empty arms, boobs ready to feed my dead child, and a hole in my heart that would never ever be filled for the rest of my entire life on earth.
So, this year, I played it cool. Fuck New Years. We went to bed early, and pretended it didn’t exist.
2016 was a pretty shitty year. 2015 was the best year, and the worst year of my life, but then in comes 2016 to carry over the shit that 2015 ended with…so, I’m just hoping that 2017 is decent. I hope no one dies, I hope that I survive, and most importantly, I hope that the baby I’m carrying lives.
I know a lot of you are like “Oh this time is different! You’re on medicine now! She will be alive!”, but you don’t know. You actually have NO idea if she will be or not. You’re taking a big ol’ fucking guess. While I appreciate your optimism, it hurts to hear those things.
Now that I addressed the end of the year holidays, I have a few things to talk about that happened late December.
First, I was able to take all of my donations up to the hospital on December 28th. I met with a woman who has been helping me get all of this organized via email for probably 6-7 months now. She was so sweet, and kind. She hugged me and kissed me on my cheek. She told us that what we are doing is so appreciated, and that it’s amazing to have it be so specifically tailored to loss parents. We discussed the plans to donate around her birthday every year, and she agreed that this is a wonderful idea. I’m planning to get ahold of her soon to see if they were able to get the bags over to the hospital and how things are going.
And also, to keep my fears in 2016, I purchased the Stroller system, and glider we wanted for Alden’s nursery. It was scary, and I thought I was going to pass out a few times, but I did it.
I figured, if I bought these items and they were officially purchased in 2016, nothing bad is going to carry over to 2017 (because I will straight up lose my shit before I let that happen).
Doing all of this also comes with a boat load of grief, so theres that…
We decided that we were going to purchase very gender neutral items because we do have 2 frozen embryos waiting for us to decide wtf we want to do as far as future children goes. But, that, I’m afraid is worthy of it’s own post some other day…yikes.
Today is another rough day.
Today, the amount of time that has passed since you died, is the amount of time you were alive.
Tomorrow you will be gone longer than you were with us.
I don’t think there are words to describe the way that I’m feeling.
The only thing that I feel like doing or saying is screaming from the top of my lungs that I love you. That I am your Mother. That you are my Daughter. That you were taken away from our family. That I will always ache for your presence in my life. And that I will never be whole again.
Our Molly Bear came today. I had to call the post office and ask them to hold it there for me so I could pick it up early because Shane had to be at work before our mail usually gets here.
We went to the post office about 9 am and there it sat. A huge white box, just staring back at me; I almost cried just looking at it. When we got home, Shane cut the tape on the box and we opened it. Immediately I cried. When I opened the box, my beautiful Kenley bear was looking back at me. She is perfect. I don’t think I could have made a better bear for us had I done it myself.
When I held the bear, I cried. I knew that I would probably lose it, and I was right. She was heavy- 7lbs 5oz- but, that’s what Kenley weighed at birth. It just feels weird to feel her weight in my arms again. Shane held her for a little while, and we talked about it. We said how perfect she was over and over. We said that Landon is going to love her, and want to play with her.
Then, Shane asked if I wanted to go in her room.
We took the bear, and we went in.
I haven’t been in her room since…April 29th. It was so hard. I mean, hard in the way that your chest gets tight, and you can’t breathe. You cry the same kind of tears you cried at the hospital when your baby was born silent; when your whole world came crashing down around you within seconds and you didn’t know how you would ever survive.
We sat there for a while, and just talked about her room. About how beautiful it is, about her clothing, and the “why her” conversation happened again. I cried more. Going in was extremely hard, but I feel so calm in her room. We decided to look through her drawers, and closet. We looked at all of her clothing. We looked in her memory box from the hospital. We opened the envelope that has a lock of her hair. Her beautiful dark brown auburn colored hair. She had so much hair, my sweet girl.
Then, I asked Shane to open her diaper bag. This bag hasn’t been opened in nearly 9 months. I haven’t looked in there with a semi-clear mind, so I wanted to look. We pulled everything out, smelled it, looked through her baby book and sorted out what we wanted to keep specifically for Kenley, and what we could reuse for this baby. There were two outfits that Kenley didn’t wear in the hospital so we kept those out, but the rest is in the diaper bag still.
Today was a really hard day. I feel like I ran a marathon on the beach in cement boots.
I just really miss my baby girl.
We put her 2 quilts, and 1 crocheted blanket into the hope chest, along with the diaper bag and all the items we kept in there. It’s a step. It’s a huge step. I know that this room is going to be our new little girl’s room, and I need to work through a lot of stuff before I’m comfortable with that. It breaks my heart to think about taking her nursery apart, but it also breaks my heart to think about leaving it the same. It’s just not fair. No mother should ever have to think about these things.
Someday’s I feel absolutely insane. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next 25ish weeks.
Tomorrow we have our NT scan and first official MFM/OB appt. I’m nervous, but not much.
I’m a little scared because I stopped my PIO, and my estrogen, and haven’t been back for a scan since…It freaks me out to think that something could have gone wrong after I stopped those medications. I’m trying to have control over my mind and control over the fear, but well…lets me honest now.
The appointment is at 12:20, then my OB appointment is in the same place just at 1:45. I have my Mother in Law coming to get Landon off the bus if needed.
If all looks well in my scan tomorrow, and we get a good picture of our girl, I’m going to post it here. I wanted to let all of the loss moms know, just incase you were having a bad day, or will be having a bad day tomorrow. I feel as if I owe it to this baby to be excited for her (obviously I am, but it’s complicated…) so I’m going to try and do one thing every few days that makes me a little uncomfortable. Posting her ultrasound photo will be that thing. I posted photos of EVERYTHING when I was pregnant with Kenley, and this baby deserves to be loved just the same.
(I have to repeat this in my head daily. Losing Kenley has greatly altered my emotional state)
I hate this. I hate every second of the way I have to live my life now.
I am trying.
Little Miss, I can’t wait to see you on your ultrasound tomorrow. Please dance up a storm and make it hard for the tech to see you, so we can see you longer (but make sure to let her get all the measurements and pictures she needs!) .
Today has been a rough day. Shane asked me how I was feeling about “little miss”, and it sort of just opened flood gates. We ended up talking about her for a long time. We talked about Kenley, her nursery, the new baby, and a bunch of stuff. I told him I was thinking about going into her room today, but ultimately I decided that I didn’t want to/wasn’t ready. He asked me if I wanted to start putting things into her hope chest, and I just lost it. Cue all the tears, for the rest of the day.
No, I don’t want to put her stuff in the box. I WANT her to be here so she can use it. I want to never have known this level of pain, and heartache. I want to be naive about pregnancy, and never suffer 2 miscarriages, and a stillbirth. I want to not feel sad/guilty/depressed every second of every day even on my good days.
I know that nothing will ever bring Kenley back, and I know that I am doing a lot better with processing her death but quite frankly it just fucking sucks.
The whole thing sucks.
I want to be excited for this new baby; we worked our asses off to get her. I am happy and excited to be pregnant, but it is overshadowed. I am trying— I say this so much that I sound like a broken record. I’m having a hard time thinking about this new baby using the swing that was purchased for Kenley. I know that it probably seems like a trivial thing for some people, but those people probably don’t truly understand. The items that we purchased for Kenley were burned into our minds as “her things”.
We dreamed of bringing her home from the hospital, and laying her in the rock n’ play my friend bought for her.
We dreamed of bringing her home and dressing her in one of the adorable outfits we specially bought for her.
We envisioned laying her in her crib, the one that we spent so long researching.
I dreamed of her doing tummy time on her bright yellow chevron rug (that I spent way too much money on- but didn’t care because, anything for her, right?)
I never in a million years expected to not have her here with me. I never thought for one second that I would have a nursery full of brand new items, never to be used by the intended child. But, instead, I have to process my grief and allow a new baby to use these items. I know that sounds weird, even as I type it my rational brain is screaming out–but my loss mom brain…well…that part of my brain gets it. That part of my brain understands the true depths of my pain. That part of my brain will always be fucked up now.
So the way it stands is that one half of my brain is always going to be living in fear or something terrible happening, and a huge chunk of my heart is pretty much broken and dead.
I’ve spent the evening googling “what to do with a nursery after stillbirth”… I bet your evening was better…
As I was sobbing and reading through multiple websites, I received an email.
Our Molly Bear has shipped…with 2 day shipping.
The bear will be here before 38+4…
I know that Kenley was looking out for me, and wanted to make sure the bear got here before the day when she has been gone for longer than she was alive.
I love you baby girl. You give me the strength to wake up everyday. I wish I could be holding you, smelling your sweet baby smell right now.
Somedays I wake up and I don’t get regular clothes on (I must not tell lies). I smack on the yoga pants, a t-shirt and call it a day. Those days I don’t usually put on my Kenley necklace. Somedays it doesn’t even phase me, but some days it really bugs me. Some days I feel like if I don’t wear that necklace, I am not honoring my girl. It’s like I feel as if I’m “forgetting” her if I don’t wear it. I know that’s stupid, and I know that wearing my necklace here in my house isn’t making me any closer to Kenley. I can’t get any closer to her- I’m her mother. I am the one who loves her more than anything in this world.
Sometimes I feel like, as a loss mom, I look for ways to honor my daughter that are above and beyond. Like, somehow if I take my love for her above and beyond, she will be able to feel that extra love. I know it’s not true, I know that she knows I love her, and that I would do anything in my power to have her here if it was possible. It’s just another way that losing a child fucks your brain up. It sucks. It’s sad. It hurts. It’s depressing knowing that no matter what I do to honor my girl, it’s just not going to matter when it comes to saving her.
I couldn’t save her.
Maybe honoring her by wearing her necklace, taking care of her tree, making things for other loss moms, makes me feel closer to her. Maybe it makes me feel like I’m caring for her, even though she is not here. I’m not sure what it is exactly. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.
There are other things that I do now that I need to do every day because I feel like if I stop, it’s one more step away from my girl. Now that we have our hope chest I know that I should take small steps to start putting things in there. I have a shoe box of random things from our bedroom that are related to her, and it’s sitting on my dresser. I think the first step in this whole “hope chest” thing will be putting that shoe box in there.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I clean something up I always end up getting sucked into it and looking at it again. Usually tying to clean one thing quickly takes a full day and will get me so off track. I know the second I step into her room and start to unpack that diaper bag, I’m going to fall apart into a million pieces. I haven’t looked at her blanket from the hospital, or the hat. I haven’t re-read her 25% finished baby book that will never be 100% finished. There are so many things that I want to look at, but know that I am not strong enough for yet.
Next Tuesday is 38 weeks. Next Saturday is 38+4, the length of time I carried her. Sunday she will be gone longer than she was alive, and that’s a real gigantic mind fuck.
Maybe next week I will find the strength to go in her room. I don’t know. Maybe not.
Today I had a cleaning at the Dentist. I knew that I would have to update my paperwork, and inevitably this means updating medication, and pregnancy information. They only had me fill out 5 update questions, and the last one was “pregnancy- yes or no”? So I checked yes, and handed it back to the front desk lady. She proceeded to read over my 5 questions, and when she hit the bottom one she looked up at me with pure excitement and exclaimed ” OH! CONGRATULATIONS! When are you due?!”.
It took everything (EVERY. THING.) I had inside of me to smile and tell her 4/5/17.
When I got back to the exam room, the hygienist went over my paper work…again…and she did the same thing. “SQUEEE!!! WHEN ARE YOU DUE! CONGRATS!”… Again, I answered and smiled.
She proceeded to talk to me and asked about my children, which I knew was coming obviously. I answered her, and told her about Kenley. I talked about Kenley like she deserves to be talked about. I spoke of her, and Landon, and the new baby.
My gums were super sore during the cleaning (thanks pregnancy hormones…), but it was finally over. She told me to sit tight and the Dentist would be in to talk to me. Well, during the 5 second wait, a new hygienist (who I hadn’t seen at all) came in and read my chart AGAIN.
I bet you can’t guess what happened.
Then she starts talking to me about a procedure that will cost like $500-1,000 and isn’t covered by insurance (assuming she was just making convo) and said I should totally have it done. And…that’s when I couldn’t take it anymore. She had squee’d FAR too much for me. So, I straight up told her ” I would love to have that done, but I just simply cannot afford it. We did IVF this summer and now I’m nearly $23,000 in debt. I just don’t have the money, but thanks for the offer”.
She gasped at the cost (YEP. ME TOO, LADY, EVERY TIME I PAY THE BILL) and told me how sorry she was that Kenley died and we had to do IVF etc etc.
Then it came time to schedule my next cleaning, in 6 months…
Right when this baby will be due.
I had to tell them I would call them to set it up, and I pretty much ran out of the office holding back tears.
I’m sorry hygienist lady, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to “bring that cute baby in for all of you to see!” because I can’t guarantee that she will fucking live.
IT HAPPENS. BABIES DIE.
So please for the love of god, just stop talking to me about it, and let me leave your office with my new toothbrush and sample toothpaste. PLEASE.