Sunday, February 28, 2010


There are times when I find it difficult to talk to "normal" women.  When you get a group of mothers together, the talk invariably turns to childbirth and everyone starts comparing birth stories.  I have delivered 3 babies, so I have more than enough material to participate...until they start talking about what disappointed them about their births.

They had a spinal headache for several days afterward and wish they hadn't gotten an epidural.  They got an epidural and it only partially worked.  They were induced, and it ended up in an emergency c-section so they wish they had waited a little longer to let their body its own thing.  Sometimes it just makes me want to scream.

I went through 8 hours of labor knowing my baby was already dead.  I went home from the hospital empty handed.  How's that for a disappointing birth?

I've only actually ever said that once, to a girl whose complaint I found particularly trite and unimportant.  I don't even remember what it was, but I felt like slapping her.  And she looked slapped too.  And never spoke to me again (though I didn't really know her very well to start out with).  So I've learned to control my tongue.

I've come to realize that my particular experience has separated me from everyone else.  I'm no longer "normal."  I have a perspective that on a whole those normal women can't even fathom, and don't even want to try (not that I can blame anyone really.  I didn't want to try to understand what it was like before it happened either).

So now when I'm in those conversations, and I hear those trivial disappointments, or trivial pregnancy complaints (like the girl who said her worst fear was gaining 50lbs, and I just wanted to scream that my worst fear was having ANOTHER baby die), I just turn off my mouth.

But I still think it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

First birthdays

I just finished writing a post on my other blog for my son since it is his first birthday today.  And I have to take a moment to reflect on Cora's first birthday.  Part of me thought that I wouldn't have this little sadness today, since I've already done a living child's first birthday and experienced what I should have had (there's a difference between mourning what you've imagined it's like, and then actually living it and KNOWING what you've lost).  As I reflect over the past year with Patrick, my heart aches for all the pictures and experiences and milestones that I never got with Cora.

I never got to nurse her.  I never got to play that "staring at each other" game, just looking into her eyes.  I never got to see her smile, or hear her laugh. I never got to know what food is her favorite, what toy was her favorite.  I never got to see her smash a cake or tear wrapping paper and try to eat it.

While watching another child do all those things is incredibly wonderful, in a way it also accentuates what I lost.  It punctuates it.  It makes it real.

For Cora's first birthday, we drove up to Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY, where we spread her ashes.  It was the only way I could spend the day with her.  We took her flowers.  We had a picnic.  It was a beautiful peaceful day.  ((I was 33 weeks pregnant with Erin at the time))
I saw my first moose that day.  I'd been saying I wanted to see a moose since my first trip to Yellowstone when I was mere weeks pregnant with Cora.  It felt like she sent them to me and that they were something special we shared.
Even though my husband thinks the idea of a cake for someone who isn't here is weird, I think I'm going to make a cake for Cora this year.  It may not have her name on it or anything, I'll just bake a cake that day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What not to say

Just wanted to add a list of things not to say to someone going through a loss, and reasons why.

~ "Maybe there was something wrong with the baby."  ((In the end, they would gladly take a baby with disabilities over no baby at all.))
~"God has a plan." ((DO NOT say anything about God unless you know that this person shares your religious/spiritual beliefs.  And even if they do, they are already feeling abandoned, hearing that God PLANNED to forsake them is not helpful at.all.))
~"It's for the best."  ((So it's better for the baby to die than to have me for her mother?))
~"At least you didn't know your baby" ((well, you can read my last post for my feelings on this one))
~"Did you do something to cause this?"  ((The mother is ALREADY feeling guilty, she really doesn't need to feel like everyone else thinks it's her fault too.  MOST losses don't happen because of something the mother did or didn't do, but we feel guilty for it anyway.))
~"I know how you feel."  ((Even if you HAVE had a loss before, everyone feels their grief uniquely.  But especially if you haven't ever had one, don't say this.  And do NOT compare a miscarriage/stillbirth to a loss of a pet or an elective abortion!))
~"Have you ever thought of adopting/not having children?"  ((After a loss, especially after multiple losses, she is already afraid she may never have a child of her own, maybe that she isn't "meant" to or that she isn't "good enough."  Asking this question makes her feel that you think she's not good enough as well.))
~"You can always have another" ((She doesn't want another child.  She wants that child. Not only that, but it's possible that she may NOT be able to have another.  Either way, this statement minimizes the loss when she feels her world is falling apart.))
~"Be grateful for the children you have."  ((Like the previous one, this child is different.  One child does not replace another.  She is grateful for the child she has, but she is grieving the brother/sister they will never have and the future that is now gone.))

Things that ARE helpful to say/do:
~"I'm sorry."  ((It may seem trite to say, but if it's sincere it's better than saying nothing.))
~"I wish I had words, but I don't."  ((This acknowledges that the loss IS something worthy of being wordless for.  There aren't words in any human language to express a grief this deep, and saying so shows that you acknowledge that it IS something hard))
~Sometimes a simple hug can do more than words ever could.

As time goes by, it may seem like she has "gotten over" her loss, when really she hasn't.  It's not something you get over, and telling her that she shouldn't be thinking about it anymore is hurtful.  A mother thinks about ALL her children every day, even if she doesn't talk about it as much anymore.  Accepting that time going by and even subsequent children will never truly erase the pain is a wonderful thing.

Acknowledging important dates unprompted is something I have always treasured.  It shows that I'm not alone in remembering my daughter.  It shows that she (and I) are important enough to someone else that they make an effort to remember.  But you really do need to follow her cues, because some people cope by not thinking/talking about it.  If you are unsure, you can always ask.  It's good to know that someone wants to help you in the way you need to be helped.

A simple rule to go by is that if what you are saying minimizes the loss, then it shouldn't be said.  Acknowledging that she has the right to feel whatever she's feeling is the most helpful thing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A loss is a loss

I must admit, it sort of always bothers me to have women who have miscarriages to talk about Cora's stillbirth and say "Oh, I can't imagine what that was like," or "I thought this was hard, it must be worse for you."  If it truly makes them feel better, well, fine.  But in the end, I don't think that it is any "worse" to lose a baby at 38 weeks than it is at 8 weeks.  It is different yes.  I had to be induced, I went through labor and delivery, I had a 2nd degree tear.  I had a baby's body that I had to decide what to "do" with.  But I also got to see her, to hold her.  I knew that she had my nose and Matt's eyes.  I knew that she had red curly hair.  I knew that she had big hands for a newborn.  I got to, through my pregnancy, get to know her a little.

But, I don't think I grieve for her more than a woman who lost a baby earlier, who didn't get to know whether their child was a boy or a girl, or who they looked like.  Who only knew that they were having a baby and nothing else yet.

On the flip side, I do NOT think that a parent whose child dies after birth has it any harder than me.  I do NOT think that their grief is more, so it has also bothered me when people have tried to reassure me with "at least you didn't lose her when she was a year or two old."  I truly do not believe that I would have been any more devastated had Cora died when she was a couple years old.  Either way, I wouldn't have her here.  And I would have memories of her to comfort myself with.

I frankly envy parents who got to see their child's eyes open before that child died.  Who got to see them smile.  Who got to play with them and hear them laugh.  I long for that so much.  But I also do not envy those parents whose child died after a long illness, who had to see their children suffer before that child died.

Either way it just sucks.  Either way, you get through it by doing what you have to do each day and only that, until you can handle adding just a little more to what you can handle doing.

There's no rank to grief.  Whether it be miscarriage, stillbirth, or something else, that future that you would have with that child is gone, and that hurts.  There's no "better" time to have your baby die.  Every person who has lost a child deserves to have that grief validated.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Mourner's Bill of Rights

((I found this in a newsletter for The Compassionate Friends that I was given shortly after Cora died.  I've read it many times since, just to remind myself that things are "okay" for me to feel. I just wanted to share it.))

The Mourner's Bill of Rights 

By Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don't allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, about your grief. If at times you don't feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don't take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don't allow others to push you into doing things you don't feel ready to do.

5. You have the right to experience "griefbursts." Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don't listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won't be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, "Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?" Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the cliched responses some people may give you. Comments like "It was God's will," or "Think of what you have to be thankful for" are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I don't know what it is.  Knowing that life is so fragile and things can fall apart in an's always a worry.  Last night I dreamed I was in labor.  Maybe I was having cramps, I don't know.  Anyway, unlike most labor dreams I've had, the baby was fine.

But my husband had died previously.

I didn't actually dream my husband's death, it was just something that was in my dream-memory.  But I was laboring with his child...without him.

Honestly, part of me has to blame it on watching "PS I Love YOU" for the first time recently.

Luckily when I woke up my husband was in bed next to me, and I was able to snuggle close to him with the reassurance, that he was, in fact, alive.

I hope that this....awareness...that I could lose any one of my little family in an instant will fade over time.  But I don't think it will.  I think that it is just now a part of me.  So I snuggle them close while I can, and hope that the day that I can't is far, far, far in the future.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Existing vs living

Sometimes it's hard to tell when you're just existing and when you're really living your life.  The last few days have been a fog.  I've been dealing with chronic headaches lately, which likely have several causes all piled on top of each other.  Needless to say this makes me very tired and I've just been existing.  I take care of whom I need to take care of, but nothing that doesn't absolutely need doing gets done.

At times like this I find myself dwelling on what my life should be like. I found myself getting angrier and angrier that Cora isn't here.

I'm not really sure what happened but I realized what I was doing today.  No, Cora's not here.  That sucks.  A lot.  But her siblings are here and I am so very blessed to have them.  I'm so grateful for them.  They give me something to not only exist for, but to really live for.

I fully understand that so many things could have happened differently since Cora's death.  So many things could have continued to go wrong.  But I got pregnant easily twice more, and while I was very very sick, there were no other complications with either of them.  There have been no major illnesses or injuries.

So I'm going to try to be more thankful for the life I do and less angry for the life I "should" have.  I'm going to try to live my life, fully engaged.

And who knows, maybe that'll help lessen the headaches a little.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Can we talk about the big pink elephant please?

As I said in a previous post, when I was pregnant with Cora we lived in a small town with a 4-year religious university.  We belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), and that school was BYU-Idaho.  The ward (congregation) we went to was specifically for married students, and there were around 200 couples in the ward.  If you know anything about Mormons, you know that we're kind of known for having big families and starting early, and this was no exception.  At any one point, about 75% of our women's group (called the Relief Society) was pregnant.  It seemed that with every baby's birth, another pregnancy was announced.

So when Cora died it was a shock to everyone.  Especially all those pregnant ladies.

There were a few very compassionate women whom I am SO VERY thankful for.  They really got me through.  But 3 or 4 in a group of 100 or so women still leaves you very lonely.  All of those women had had miscarriages, but the latest one was 14 weeks.  A loss at that point isn't so....public.

I felt like I had some horrible disease.  People avoided my eyes in the hallways.  Nobody sat next to me anymore, always leaving a chair between, even in a crowded room.  I'm sure most were well-meaning. I'm sure they didn't want to say something to hurt me any more than I already was hurting.  They didn't want to invade my grief.  But all it really did was make me feel very very very alone.

A little over a year later, just a week after Erin was born, we moved across the city and with that move came a new ward.  Maybe it's because this ward hadn't experienced my loss too that they were more tolerant of my talking about Cora when we talked about how trials can build our testimony and things like that. Maybe it's because the bishop of this ward had also lost a child (a son, hours after birth, due to a heart defect).

Looking back on it I get so frustrated.  I get frustrated that our culture is so terrible at dealing with someone else's grief...especially if it's a child. Especially if they died before they were born.

All the parent of a child who has died wants is to be allowed to remember her child.  Eventually it will come less with tears and more with smiles.  But we still want to be allowed to remember.  And we want others to remember too, without expecting us to completely fall apart at the mention of the name.  Please, accept our children.  Accept that we will always miss them.  Accept our grief, not as something to be avoided but as something that just is.

Friday, February 5, 2010


When I was 14, I started babysitting a little boy named Konlin.  His mom was very pregnant with his baby brother.  I babysat every other week so that they could have a date night.  When Kade was born, they stopped for a few weeks, but resumed, taking Kade with them for a few weeks.  When Kade was 3 months old, they decided to try out me watching both of them.  Oh how I loved it.  Konlin was hilarious, and Kade was the most wonderfully good baby a teenager could hope for.  It went like that for 2 years, and I fell in love with those little boys.

Kade's second birthday was spent up the canyon, playing outside and having a picnic.  When they got home they had a quick dinner and put the dirty boys in the bath.  Their mom ran downstairs for a second to switch some laundry over and when she came back upstairs Kade was face down in the water, unconscious.

We lived just down the street.  My mother noticed the ambulance in front of their house and went over to see if there was anything they could do.  I got a call about 5 minutes later.  It was my dad, asking if I could watch Konlin while his parents and grandparents went with them to the hospital.  I put Konlin to bed, I knew his routine.  He asked questions, asked if Kade would be okay.  I told him I hoped he would.  We prayed for his little brother that night.

At about 11pm my mother came over.  I had school the next day, she didn't have to work.  She arrived at the same time as the grandparents.  Kade was being transferred to Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, they'd come to pick up a change of clothing and some other things for the boys' parents.  I went home and went to bed, Mom stayed over night.

I was a wreck the next two days.  Instead of going to my church's young women group that night, I went to a Voyager season finale or premier or something party with some other friends.  My dad was supposed to go too, but couldn't for some reason.  I got a ride home.  My dad greeted me at the door with probably the grimmest expression I've ever seen.

In spite of great brain activity and response the day before, that day all brain activity and response had stopped.  After several hours of agonized prayer, his parents decided that his spirit had left, and the only reason his body was still alive was because of the machines.  So they took him off the ventilator and he took his last breaths in his mother's arms.

I remember feeling so out of place at the funeral.  I wasn't family, but I was more than a friend.  I grieved the loss of a little boy whom I'd come to know very well and loved so very much.  I watched the grief of his parents, wondering how they'd survived it.

I came across this blog today, and it brought it all back.  The fear, the grief, the questions.  Wondering why God would allow such a sweet, loving little boy die.  I truly believe I came to know this family because God was preparing me for my own loss.  I knew parents could survive the death of a child because I had seen it first hand.

I still miss him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Can she see it?

I started working at Walmart shortly after Cora was born.  I just couldn't handle my old job and all the well-meaning regular customers who didn't know asking me how my baby was.  And it would be a pay raise with better hours.

The only problem was that I was living in a small town that was home to a 4-year religious university, which meant a LOT of pregnant women or women with newborns all packed into a small space.  So it felt like 2 out of every 3 women was pregnant or had a small baby.  They were everywhere.

It hurt so much watching them sometimes, women who were hugely pregnant complaining about being kicked in odd places, and just wishing it would stop.  My thought was always "shut up and appreciate that your baby is kicking you.  I hope that your baby doesn't stop.  I've lived that nightmare, and I hope you never do.  Appreciate that your baby is alive and moving."

It was worse, though with the women of small babies.  It was like they were stabbing me in the heart every time they complained about crying, or being up all night.  I vividly remember overhearing once girl say "I don't even know why I ever wanted to be a mom, I'm miserable."  I wanted to scream.

Now that I have 2 living children, I think I probably judged most of those mothers harshly.  It's is really hard to deal with a baby who won't stop screaming (Erin did that to me, though I never ever thought what that girl said).  But I can't help wonder, what if that woman I was--so broken and missing her baby so much, envying that I even have children at all--were watching me at the store.  Would she be able to see it in my face, that I know...that I've been there?  That thought has definitely impacted how I interact with my kids at stores.  Even when Erin, being the 2-year-old, has her tantrums, I try not to say anything that could sound like I don't love and appreciate the fact that she is here to have tantrums in the first place.

Sometimes I wish that there was a special secret mark that only baby loss parents could see.  So that we could know.  It's so lonely sometimes.  But if I could have just seen, back then, when my arms were still empty, I think it would have been easier.  I think it would have given me hope.