face. 

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. 

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. 

Forever

the after.

There are a lot of emotions that one can feel after something powerful happens in their life. You can feel sadness that the event is over, joy that it happened, or even excitement for what is to come. I knew that getting pregnant 7 months after Kenley died would be a very profound time in my life. I don’t think that I was able to clearly see how the outcome (read: my life with Alden in my arms) would shake out. I’m not saying that I thought things would be fine once she was here, because quite honestly there was a large amount of time during her pregnancy where I wasn’t sure she would ever come home. I assumed the worst would happen; I panicked every appointment, and dreaded the NST’s or getting bad news.

When we found out that I had the rare blood clotting disorder called Protein S Deficiency and would need to be on injectable blood thinners, I just assumed that the worst would happen again. It didn’t matter to me that the “problem” was discovered and hopefully a blood thinner would keep clots from forming again which would lead to a positive outcome. In a loss Mother’s brain all you hear is that there is an additional problem with your pregnancy. High Risk. More monitoring.  I am forever thankful my Doctor chose to run this testing on me because had I lost another child, I’m not sure I would have survived that.

Here in the after that is Alden’s life earth side, I’m finding that I feel a lot of random emotions at random times. I feel happiness when I thought for sure I would be stricken with sadness. And on the other hand I feel sadness when for sure I should be feeling joy. I think throwing the element of losing a child into the mix is what makes things so backward. Losing Kenley means I miss out on a lifetime of love, joy, happiness, and milestones. A lifetime. I will never see her smile for the first time, or witness her chewing on her hands when she’s hungry. I will never get to see these things, these early little milestones that I’m witnessing with Alden. It’s hard to dress my living child in clothes that I bought and envisioned my dead child wearing. I thought I would try to dress her in something of Kenley’s yesterday, and I just couldn’t. So I didn’t put any pressure on myself; if I have to pack all of Kenley’s clothes in a tote when Alden is too big for them, then so be it. I don’t need to put added grief and pressure on myself over clothing.

I had Postpartum Depression after I had Landon, and I was very worried about having it with Alden (and it being coupled with grief from losing K). So, I googled the signs and symptoms just to keep myself honest about how I’m feeling. I can honestly say I check off almost every box.

(Keeping with the spirit of honesty through my loss, pregnancy after loss, and now life & parenting after a loss, I will mark the ones that I am currently feeling/have felt in green. Being transparent is important. PPD sucks and I know that I’m not alone in my feelings.)

Symptoms of PPD can occur any time in the first year postpartum. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Sleep and eating disturbances 
  • Inability to be comforted
  • Exhaustion
  • Emptiness
  • Inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low or no energy
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby
  • Occasional or frequent anxiety

When I had it with Landon we had a lot going on; a newborn, Shane’s extremely stressful job, buying a house, moving across the state in one day and just adjusting to our new life so I wasn’t surprised when I started feeling sad when I should be happy and enjoying my exciting new life.

This time, after so much struggle and infertility, we ended up losing our beautiful girl. I knew that I would be sad after losing Kenley, and fully expected PPD to show it’s ugly face again, which it did. I’m pretty sure that it never actually left in some senses; this could also just be regular ol’ run of the mill depression now. I’ve been on medication since February 2016 and I’m pretty sure that I will always want to be on it as I feel like it really does help to take the edge off of my anxiety.

When Alden was born screaming, I knew my struggle wasn’t over. I knew that now, probably more than ever, I would be feeling a wide range of emotions and I was absolutely correct. Life has been filled with happiness, sadness, joy, grief, guilt, and in some ways even more secondary losses that I’m finally able to physically experience. Things as simple as getting Alden dressed, while she stares at me, I feel both joy and sadness while doing. I think that this feeling of both joy and sadness while doing the most mundane of things with your living child is one that only a loss mother can truly understand. A feeling that a women who was so close to having her child in her arms, then that child was stolen away taking all of her dreams and part of her soul with her, would understand to the fullest.

Alden has brought so much love and light to my life, and for that I am so happy. I know that she will be loved more than she can ever imagine, and that I will give her everything she could ever want and need as a human to thrive in this awful world. I know that someday I might be able to look at her and feel complete joy, but that day is very far off. The grief I feel for my daughter that didn’t get a chance at life is a grief that no one should ever have to feel. It’s the grief that you can feel in your bones, the one you can taste, the one that makes every part of you hurt. It’s the grief that makes every part of you wish that you had died right along side your child because that is the only way it would feel right.

I knew that bringing Alden home, safe and sound, wouldn’t be a fix for losing Kenley. Nothing will ever take away the pain of losing Kenley, and nothing will ever completely fill the hole I have in my heart where she should be. Losing a full term child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I am 100% certain of that.

Navigating this life with one beautiful daughter in my arms, and one in my heart is turning out to be a lot harder than I expected.

rational brain=non existent

I’m pretty sure that the last two weeks of this pregnancy are going to just drive me absolutely up the wall crazy. Since last Wednesday when I posted last, I have gone off the deep end it feels.

Thursday we had our NST, and it was CAKE…like nothing has ever gone so smooth in my life kind of cake. We walked in, I peed in a cup- all was good, I lost two lbs, blood pressure was like ridiculously perfect, and Alden was kicking the NST’s ass. We were in and out within what felt like 30 minutes. After, we went to Panera bread and enjoyed a nice relaxing lunch. I love Thursdays with Shane because we always get lunch together and it’s just so relaxing to be with him.

So, fast forward to Friday. Landon is in school, and my mom came to visit for the weekend. Everything is going well, but just somewhere in the back of my mind I feel super uneasy. I think the closer it is getting to d-day, the worse I’m feeling. Saturday I convinced myself that she wasn’t moving “right”, or that her pattern was different. Of course this caused me to spiral and push on her a bunch to see if she would move (which she did). I would get so close to saying I had to go into L&D, then she would move enough for me to feel confident in her being alive.

Saturday night however was a different story. She didn’t move while I laid in bed with Shane watching tv. She didn’t move when I rolled on my back, or my other side. In the tiny little rational part of my brain I have left I’m thinking, ok…she is sleeping so much right now, everything is fine. It’s constantly overshadowed by the giant irrational (read: totally legit) part of my brain that says  OMG. IT’S BEEN FOREVER SINCE YOU FELT HER MOVE. GET UP. GO TO LABOR AND DELIVERY. GO NOW. WHO CARES IF YOU CAN HEAR HER HEART BEAT ON YOUR DOPPLER. THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Saturday night I slept like SHIT. I was up 4 times to pee, and one of those times I was woken up by a contraction that hurt like hell.

Oh and at 4:45 am that “legit” part of my brain made me use my doppler to hear her heart beat.

FOUR. FOURTY. FIVE. AM.

Tomorrow it will be 16 days until she’s here. Kenley died a week before her scheduled c-section date. I cannot stop thinking about how were coming up on that date. Sure, this is a different pregnancy, and things are different this time yada yada yada, but honestly? Things are so much worse this time. Before, I was excited. I wanted to let her cook in there as long as she could! I asked for a c-section at 38 weeks and was told no. If my doctors would have agreed, she would be here. They had no reason to not agree.

This time, my MFM is willing to take her at 37 weeks, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to beg her to take her at 36, or 36.3 I don’t know, just something. She needs to come out while I know she’s alive. I didn’t know that Kenley wasn’t alive. It was so unfair, and cruel. I want to be able to say that this isn’t driving me insane, or that I’m handling it super well, but the truth is I’m not.

My anxiety is overwhelming. My fear of losing this child has become to much. I am excited for Alden to come…but what if she doesn’t get to come home with us? What would I do? People are taking time off of work for her arrival- just like with Kenley- and what happens if she doesn’t survive. It’s all too much.

Tomorrow we have an NST followed by a Growth Ultrasound and an appointment with my MFM. She is so reassuring, so I know she will calm me down, but I really really hope that she considers my mental health when I ask her if we can go any earlier.

I’m sure she’ll say no and try to talk me down…but I feel like my concerns are valid and my opinion matters.

Having a baby should not be this god damn hard.

NSTptsd.

Yep. It’s a real thing, at least it should be a real word anyway.

Yesterday at our first NST of the week, Alden decided she would be a super jerk and not let the nurse find her heart beat right away. And, by right away, I mean it took THREE WHOLE MINUTES to find her heartbeat. Sure, 3 minutes doesn’t seem like a long time, but remember the standard NST testing hook up is how we found out Kenley died. That was the longest probably 10 minutes of my entire life…

So, I’m sitting there… the nurse says “ok lets have you roll toward me” (I do) still no heartbeat.

Lets have you roll on to your other side (I do) still, I hear nothing.

I’m feeling her move inside me, or so I think; I thought Kenley was moving, too, but I was horribly mistaken.

I say, “ok let me lay flat on my back for a second because sometimes when I do that she moves and brings herself pretty close to the surface and we get her heartbeat”.

I lay flat. NOTHING. 

I lost it; I cried and was shaking so much we had to turn the machine down because it was so loud. I’m sorry, but there is only so much you can handle! I had reached my limit about 20 seconds after we couldn’t find her heartbeat in the beginning so the nurse is lucky I held out as long as I did.

Finally, we got it. It was faint and sounded super distant. I don’t know what she was doing in there (besides stressing me the hell out) but she just kept her distance. We were finally able to get a good trace on her, and she passed with flying colors, as per usual.

After the nurse left to let my MFM read the strip, I lost it again. Shane could tell I wasn’t holding it together very well, and I could tell he was a little stressed out too. He swears he heard her faintly in the beginning, and that the Nurse was never worried…well, I sure as hell was (and I know he’s lying and was scared half to death too…) 

So the rest of the appointment I was scared. I wanted to just cry to my MFM and beg her to take Alden now. Please god just take her while we know she’s still alive. I know that she will be fine on the outside. What if my body kills her again between now and the time she’s supposed to come? Kenley died 7 days before her scheduled c-section date, so what am I supposed to do around that time with Alden? I’m pretty sure I’ll either be at an NST, in Labor and Delivery getting monitored, or I’ll be sitting here with my doppler on my stomach listening to her heartbeat all night.

I talked with my MFM, and told her I had been having some Braxton Hicks contractions, and that they pretty much happen every time I stand up. I sit down, and they eventually go away after a few seconds. I drink tons of water, so I know I’m not dehydrated. She told me that if they increased, or the pain intensified that I should head to L&D. She didn’t seem too worried about them, but I go for another NST on Thursday and so far today they have been happening again so I will mention it to her.

She told me that she had put her cell phone number in my chart so that if I end up at labor and delivery in the middle of the night they know to call her for delivery- That kind of freaked me out I won’t lie! We also discussed that I need to stop Lovenox 12 hours before I deliver because if I don’t, they won’t give me a spinal due to bleeding risks, and I’ll have to be put under. I would just lose my mind if I had to be asleep for her birth! Not cool!

I have been trying my hardest to not let my mind get the best of me, but the NST just pushed me over the edge. I don’t know how I’m going to get through the next 20-something days. I really don’t know.

On a happy, less neurotic, note- Alden now has a light fixture for her bedroom!

lydia-flushmount-chandelier-c

 

 

weekly randoms.

Yesterday we had an NST and Alden did wonderfully. She was SO active this time that I was seriously concerned something was wrong. The nurse always reassures me that there is no such thing as “too much activity” which I don’t know if I agree with. I mean I guess too much activity followed by immediate decreased fetal movement might be what I’m thinking is bad, but I don’t know. It’s just always something; too much movement, not enough movement, weird movement, different movement patterns. It’s all enough to drive you crazy, honestly.

After our test we went to get Lunch at a little cafe. We talked a little about how we are planning to set up people being at our house for the c-section date etc. It really really sent me into a PTSD spiral. A lot more than I expected to be honest. I just couldn’t help but think about December and how Landon had to stay with my Mother in Law for days. He was confused, and worried and thought everything was fine until he came to the hospital and everything changed. I literally can’t even think about it without getting dizzy and wanting to hyperventilate, so we decided to table that conversation until we are closer.

Shane’s been replacing all the doors in our house with new 2 panel doors.

This is the Nursery closet and bedroom door


 He got some handy tools for Christmas (not by coincidence) and he’s been busy with that for a few days now. It looks so much better. I hate that the people who built this house went so cheap on everything. It would save us a lot of work if things were done just a little nicer. Instead, we are planning on replacing all the doors, painting all the god awful trim work, remodeling both bathrooms, and that’s just inside. Oh and we had to repaint the entire house when we moved in because…just yikes. It’s amazing what a few days of work can do for your home. I can’t wait until spring so we can plant some flowers, and do some more work outside. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to paint our fence which I am NOT looking forward to.

We hung Alden’s mirror above her dresser the other day. It looks really awesome, and I’m pretty happy with out it turned out. 


We keep putting off working in the Nursery, and I know it’s just nerves keeping us from doing things in there (by doing things I mean going through her clothes, washing them, organizing her closet etc etc). I can vividly remember washing Kenley’s things, and folding them with such love one night. I am not there yet. I cannot do that again, and lose another baby. So, I guess in my mind I think if they’re just hanging in the closet, and Alden doesn’t come home then I’m one step ahead of where I was with K.

It’s going to be in the 60’s all week. It’s February. What is happening? It’s fine, I’m happy the weather will be nice, but it just makes me feel like I need to be outside, when I really need to be focusing on crap I have to do inside my house. You watch, when March 15th rolls around, it will be freezing and snowing.

I tried to get Landon to go see Aladdin with me today at the movies- sort of a Mother Son afternoon date- and he pretty much straight up told me that he’s too cool for me. He said that Aladdin was a girls movie (he’s never seen it), and that he didn’t care if we went to get milkshakes afterward or not, that he just didn’t want to go. I’m to the point now in my pregnancy where I’m really emotional, so it made me cry. I didn’t let him see that it made me cry, but it freakin hurt my feelings! FINE. We won’t go then. I don’t have the emotional strength to drag him out of the house and listen to him whine the entire time. I just am running low on the Fucks that I give. So instead, he would like to stay home, and play board games with me all day. Ok then. When he says things like that, it makes my heart ache for Kenley. I know that she would just love spending time with me, and he did too when he was her age. I guess he’s just out growing me.

I really wish that Shane and I could go on a vacation. I could use some relaxing time with just him. We are home during the week together on his days off, but it’s just not the same. We have so much that we have to do here that we never get a chance to just relax and enjoy each other. He is my calm, happy place and I’ve been feeling pretty rattled lately. Pretty sure the anxiety of what’s to come in the next 26ish days is really hitting home, possibly for both of us more than I realize.

I am so thankful for the loss moms that I’ve connected with. There are days where one of us will feel just awful, and will send out a text that we all can relate to. I’m so thankful for that fucked up connection we all have. I feel like I can go into our group chat and just say literally whatever I need to, and they will understand, and not judge me all in one. Just so thankful to have them in my corner.

Tomorrow I’m getting my hair done. I’m going to go super light, more white than honey blonde. Here’s to hoping that my well water doesn’t screw it all up. My sister, and my friend both suggested that I buy bottled water to wash my hair and I seriously think I’m going to do that. I have the right kind of shampoo and conditioner for blonde hair, so we’ll see if this makes a difference.

I need to hire a professional organizer. I have so much crap in my house that just needs to be thrown away, and then the house needs to be organized so well. Ugh. It’s got to be the nesting kicking in, but I want to just organize everything and it’s driving me nuts cus I can’t. My giant stomach is in the way of everything, and it’s frustrating because I get dizzy and winded. I’m not complaining about being pregnant, because honestly I love being pregnant, but damn! I sometimes forget that I gotta take it easy.

Off to do laundry.

 

l&d

Last night before bed my back started to hurt, and I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath. It’s not unusual for me to not be able to take a deep breath cus, well, all of my space is taken up. Breathing is not a fun activity these days. I went to bed with some back pain but didn’t think anything about it. I also felt really tired, but again, that’s normal these days. When I woke up this morning, my back still hurt; I couldn’t bend over without being in pain. Shane helped me by getting Landon ready for school this morning. When he was off to school, I went back to bed. I ended up sleeping until 11:30.

When I woke up, I was waiting to feel Alden move and I didn’t feel it. I kept waiting, and waiting…But I didn’t feel anything. I turned from side to side while laying in bed, expecting her to kick me hard like she usually does but nada.
I drank a sprite. Nothing.

I ate some food. Nothing.

I took a shower. Nope.

I ate some candy. Nothing.

I had her HB on my doppler which didn’t really calm me down, and she had the hiccups twice which also didn’t do much for my anxiety.

So, we decided that it was best for us to go to Labor and Delivery. I really really really didn’t want to go, but, I know that it’s better to be safe than sorry or whatever. I knew the PTSD was going to be full blown today, and I just really didn’t want to feel all that. We got there, and went back to a triage room.

They told me to give a urine sample and leave it in the bathroom …PTSD SOOOOOO much PTSD. I remember walking into L&D with Kenley, and giving a sample, and just feeling so naive to anything being wrong. Like, I think I made a joke about how bad I had to pee. But, it was like the clearest memory of the entire night when we found out she died. I left my sample in the bathroom that was in my personal room, and climbed into the bed. The nurse came in, talked to us about why we were there, and hooked us up to the monitor. We found her HB right away, thank god, but she wasn’t moving. Her heart rate was up in the 160’s and the OB resident wanted to see it a little lower so we kept monitoring her for about an hour.

The OB resident was so freaking sweet. She came in and discussed my history with us. She brought up Landon’s birth, and asked how we lost our second child. She offered her condolences about Kenley and she let me talk about her for a few minutes. It always feel good when someone cares about our story. She told us that Alden was showing good signs of accelerations, but she wasn’t moving as much as she liked so we were going to keep watching her for a while longer. After about 30 more minutes she came back in and told us that she was going to get the ultrasound machine (cue super PTSD- This is where I saw my sweet Kenley, lifeless, on screen. A mobile ultrasound machine is what confirmed my worst fears) and was going to make sure that they could see physical movement on the screen. I started to cry. She told me that she wanted to do everything possible to make me feel comfortable because of our history. I felt like she actually cared, and I jokingly told her to let me stay there for the next 5 weeks.

Once she brought the machine in, we were able to see Alden moving and squirming around. I don’t know if she had just changed positions again, and I’m just not able to feel them as much or what, but ugh. She showed us Alden’s stomach and told us that it was “black and fluttering” which meant that she was practicing breathing (a good thing), and that if she was in any kind of distress that this would be the first thing that would stop. Because she was breathing, having lots of movements, and her heart rate had dropped back down into the 130/140s, they said they felt comfortable sending us home. The resident said that there was no reason why she felt that our baby was in distress, and that we should feel confident in her health.

I cried a few more times, and thanked her for taking so much time with us to show us all these things even though we just had an NST yesterday.

Pregnancy after loss is a mind fuck.

Pregnancy after a full term stillborn child is a whole different kind of evil.

 

 

six.

Last year, on 2/7, Landon turned 5. I remember (before Kenley died) spending so much time thinking about how “stressed out” I was going to feel for his birthday party. How was I going to throw it all together when I had a newborn? How was I going to make it special for him with his new sister in the mix? I had plans to have him Paw Patrol party, and I was going to dress Kenley up as one of the dogs to surprise him. Instead, the reality of the situation was, how can I walk through party city and buy paper plates without bursting into tears (I couldn’t)? How can I function enough to make this day special to him because his sister just died and isn’t here to celebrate with us (still not sure I succeeded).

It’s stuff like this that I really kick myself for. Sure, I didn’t know that Kenley wasn’t going to survive, so technically I shouldn’t beat myself up for that. However, I should have been thinking about all the awesome ways that I would be spending Landon’s birthday with him AND his sister- not how stressed out I was going to be. How dumb and naive I was.

This year, as Landon’s birthday started to creep closer, I found myself on Amazon. What can I buy on Amazon so that I don’t have to go to the store (read: so I can avoid a panic attack/PTSD flash backs)? I found everything online. I didn’t have to go to a store, and I found that I was better able to control my anxiety here at my house vs actually walking into the store again.

*Side note*

You know, as I sit here and write these things out all I can think is “god people probably think I’m a giant loser cry baby”…

That’s totally fine.

Think whatever you want to think about grief, but, try not to judge us who are grieving the death of a child too harshly. And, I hope with all of my heart that you never ever have to grieve the way that I am.

Anyway, I am pretty happy with how everything has turned out. He’s having a minecraft party, so I was able to buy a lot of the stuff on Etsy, which was cool.

So here we are again, at a birthday milestone. Six. He is going to be six. He was turning 5 and so excited for his sister to be there, and I couldn’t even give him that. Sure I’m pregnant now and things are looking good for her to come very soon, but let’s be honest here…I’m pretty sure his little mind doesn’t understand if he will ever get a real living sibling. I can try to explain it to him over and over, but, I’m sure he won’t believe it until she’s here either.

Can’t say that I blame him.

 

 

What I wish people knew about losing a 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:

What are the symptoms of PTSD?
PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
  • 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.

 

 

 

the first year without you.

It finally came…Kenley’s first birthday.

The days that followed Halloween were brutal. It was like the Holidays were taunting me. I knew where we were at each moment in time last year (How far I was at Thanksgiving/how many days until she was born etc etc…) and so going through each day up until her birthday was really rough. When we went to get our Christmas tree this year, the place we normally go closed before we could get there (Landon started Kindergarten so we didn’t have enough time to get there after he got off school). We had to go to a new place; It was nice, but far less exciting than our normal place.

It felt good to do something different than we had the year before, though– the year when Kenley was safely tucked inside of me, growing and thriving like she should have been. When we put up the tree, I was overcome with intense grief. I cried, and I cried hard. No, let me rephrase that, I sobbed. That deep sob, you know? The one that you have no real idea where it comes from except you know deep down that it comes from a place of pain that no human being should ever have to feel.

Having to put an ornament on my tree in memory of my daughter, instead of having her there to clumsily hang hers (read: tear down the lights/tree/decor) was extremely hard. I was transported back to the Hospital when they told me she wasn’t alive anymore. I felt THAT level of sadness. It wasn’t just that she wasn’t here anymore, it was also the fact that she would NEVER be here. Maybe a realization occurred? I’m not sure.

She will never be able to hang an ornament, instead, for the rest of my life, I will be hanging her memorial ornaments. Do I buy a new one each year? Do I only hang the one that I bought specifically for her? How does a mother handle Christmas decorations when one of her children is no longer with her? There isn’t a guide for how to handle these types of things.

I avoided Christmas music VERY well this year; I think I listened to it maybe 2 times? I’m pretty happy about that, to be honest. I started listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween in 2015 and soon found out that Kenley loved it. She would dance around while it played. Avoidance was my only coping mechanism re: xmas music this year.

Every Christmas Eve, we go to Shane’s family’s get together. We went last year, and I was about to burst- 38 weeks exactly. It was SUCH a great day. I remember people giving us gifts for Kenley, telling me they were so excited for her to get here, asking how I was feeling/how things were going/next doctors appt/squeeing that her C-section date was literally a week away.  A week. Like…ouch. It still stings so deep when I think of that. It stings extra bad when I remember that I asked to have a c-section at 38 weeks 1 day- the day after Christmas- and my doctors told me no. It stings really badly when I remember that the day after Christmas last year I called my obgyn and told them I was having contractions that were able to be timed pretty close together, but the OB thought I “sounded ok”, and advised me that she didn’t think I needed to be seen, but if it made me feel better that I could go.

What kind of bullshit doctor says that? “You sound ok”. Oh good, I’m glad you can register what is happening inside my uterus by the tone of my voice. And for someone to pretty much patronize me by saying “if it makes you feel better, you can go in”, is just something that I will never EVER be able to live down. I hope that this Doctor feels extreme regret for not telling me to go to L&D that night, because who knows what could have been done…

Anyway, this year I didn’t want to go to the annual Christmas Eve get together…but I went for my Landon. I know he needed things to feel as normal as possible. When we got there, I lost it. People hugged us, and I just couldn’t handle it. It was like everything from last year just washed over me. All in all it ended up being a decent night, and I am thankful we went. Landon had an incredible time, and that is what really counts.

Christmas morning wasn’t too bad for me either. I’m not sure why…Maybe it’s because Landon’s joy just overshadowed my sorrow. Seeing him smile is the greatest gift to me, and hearing how excited he was about all of the gifts that Santa got him really really made me genuinely happy. And also, maybe I was actively blocking my feelings out; not thinking that I should have two children on Christmas morning. I should have a little girl crawling all over and being amazing. I’m pretty sure it was 50/50 (ok …70/30).

As the days ticked down to her birthday, I could feel my anxiety ramping up. The plan was to have immediate family over, have lunch, a cake, and a balloon release. I had been talking with Shane for a few weeks about what he wanted to do to “celebrate” (side note- I hate this term. I hate it so much. I’m not celebrating her birthday, for fucks sake, she’s not here. I’m mourning her, and all the things I lost when she died) her day. He’s pretty easy going so he ultimately said “whatever you wanna do”, which I sometimes hate. So, the day before he admits to me that he was surprised I wanted to have people over, and thought it would be nice to just have him, myself and Landon together on the day.

Ugh.

I told him that he needs to tell me these things when I’m asking him for a few weeks at a time. It was too late to cancel everything, and we ended up going forward with my plans. At the end of the night when everyone left, he hugged me tight, told me he was so happy we went through with it and that he had a really nice day. I’m so thankful that I can trust my gut sometimes, and strong arm him into things that I know are ultimately better for us.

We had a christmas gift exchange with my Dad and Sister before everyone showed up at 2 for the “party”. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do this, as it felt like it was taking away from her, but ultimately I’m glad we did. Then, around 2, Shane’s family showed up. We all just kind of hung out for a little bit, then had lunch. We ate, and decided that we would do the balloon release. Everyone wrote or drew on their balloons (only popped 2!) and then we made our way outside. It was extremely windy, but so clear. Landon counted to 3, and we all let them go. It felt good to watch them float away. I kept my message short and simple. She knows how much I love her, so my balloon was just a small reminder of that.



After, we came inside, and had cake and ice cream. My sister brought a flower arrangement that is so beautiful and reminds me of Kenley in so many ways. My mom bought her a gift which I love. It’s a stuffed fox with a tutu on it, and I plan to keep it in her memory box. A wonderful friend sent over birthday balloons.


After all the commotion was done, we just hung out and talked for a bit. Slowly people started to leave one by one.

All throughout the day I was getting texts from people all over letting me know that she was on their minds, and that she was missed. I woke up to a specific Instagram tag from a woman who lost her son last year about a week or two before we lost Kenley. I don’t know what specifically about her words struck a chord with me, but it sort of set my tone for the day. I think it was what I was meant to see on the morning of her first birthday.


The love and support from everyone really made the day better- not easier by any means- just better.

I missed her more than I could ever explain to anyone, yet, I was so thankful there were so many people thinking of her and our family. Knowing she was and is so loved on her birthday, even after all this time, made my heart heal a little, I think.

I want to thank every single person who got in contact with me somehow yesterday. Your love and support means the world to us, and I believe it is what helped us through yesterday with a little less pain than I expected.

Our lives will never be the same, and I wouldn’t ever want them to be. If they were, I wouldn’t know my sweet girl’s face. I wouldn’t have ever known her hair color, or how her lips looked just like her brothers. I wouldn’t trade her for the world.

I am her Mother; she chose me to be that for her. It’s all that I can do to love her like she deserves, and honor her memory like she deserves.

I love you my sweet girl. Happy First Birthday.

I will hold space in my heart for you until I can hold you in my arms again.

 

 

 

 

need help!

 

I’m going to put this out there, and maybe someone will stumble across it and have advice.

I’m planning on making (at minimum currently) 20 care packages of the hospital where we had Kenley. I am planning to include a bunch of things, but the one thing I’m struggling with is a candle. I would like to include a glass votive candle, or something bigger (depending on price) with a healing quote, or something about the candle being a memorial candle etc. I cannot find any that I like on the internet anywhere. I’m thinking of aromatherapy type scents. Nothing too over powering, and definitely nothing that would smell like anything child related.

Sooooo….I’m wondering if anyone makes candles, or knows of someone who makes them? Heck, or just someone who would like to be part of the donation and is willing to learn to make them? I would love to have something made by another loss mother, or someone who has been affected by the loss of a child in some way shape or form. Like I stated, I would be looking for 20 currently. If I cannot find a candle maker, I will probably buy them from somewhere, but would be interested in someone who could make a graphic sticker for the front of the candles, also.

Please let me know if you have any ideas, or know anyone who could help!

The goal is to have the 20 care packages done by Kenley’s first birthday…December 29th.

I’m open to suggestions as well for ideas to include with the care packages. What did you need after you lost your child? What did someone give you that really stuck with you? Is there something you didn’t think about needing but ended up REALLY needing?

• I needed tissues. The hospital tissues sucked ASS and my nose was bloody and raw from crying into them. My step-dad purchased a really nice box of soft tissues for us, and brought them the second day in the hospital. This is where the idea came from to buy puffs soft pack tissues (I bought about 40 full size packs) and I will be donating them to the maternity ward for baby loss mommas only.

• I needed chapstick. I didn’t bring any in my bag, when usually I do. I plan to include a nice chapstick in the carepack as many moms don’t plan to have this awful thing happen to them, and chapstick is the last thing on their mind…until their lips are so dry from constant crying and face wiping.

• I’m adding in a personal bottle of aromatherapy hand lotion. I know that the hospital gives you these things, but having a good quality lotion might make you feel more relaxed? I know that sounds like a joke, and honestly even saying it sounds awful because nothing can make you feel more relaxed after you just find out your baby died.

• I’m planning to include this book that I was given at the funeral home. It’s a very light read, and that is what I needed in the days after Kenley- not the gigantic book that I was given. This is such a good small book to start with.

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I’m also planning to include this book which has been the greatest book I have read since Kenley died. It is written by a loss mother, as well, and it just tells you what you need to hear. The version I will be donating will have Kenley’s name in the back on the memorial page.

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• A pack of forget me not seeds that are specifically packaged in memory of a lost loved one.

I had also tossed around the idea of including a molding kit for hand prints. I didn’t get any hand prints from Kenley and I would have loved to have them. These are things that you just don’t think of during the absolute worst moments of your life.

I had also thought of including some sort of lara bar, or something like that, but when I thought about it, it made me want to puke a little. I remember them wheeling in this huge cart of coffee, tea, drinks and snacks after she died. It sat in front of my bed about 10 feet away from me, staring at me the entire time we were there. The nurses would come in and ask if we needed our coffee refreshed and all I could think was “my daughter just died”.

Eating was not the best memory from the hospital.

Anyway, those are my ideas. I know there are a lot of you reading who have lost your children too, so please don’t keep quiet. I’m looking for input on ANYTHING you can offer me.