Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pay it forward...

I really haven't shared with anyone in my real life that I've started this. Not even my husband or closest friends that have stuck it through with me. I know that I will eventually tell them. In some ways, I hope this will be an avenue for them to truly see into my mind when I can't always communicate directly. Yet, despite this hope, I'm holding off from telling them.

If I'm honest, I think it's because of two reasons. First, the one that really doesn't have much basis...what if they don't like what they read and I now lose them. I lost so many friends (I'll save that for another post) after Connor's death, I am terrified of losing the few that stayed with me. I know that my thoughts can be offending to them. I know that my thoughts can unintentionally hurt them. I know that we have a core difference. I guess I keep waiting for them to figure that out and say this is too much trouble and be done with me. I type this fear and yet there is a part of me that knows the fear is unfounded...knows that they won't abandon me. All I can really sum it up to general fear of loss that can now consume me, whether it be from death or ending relationships.

The other reason is I want to make sure this is worth it. I want to make sure that I'm gaining something by exposing these feelings. That it's helping me to process my loss and what that means to my life. That it's worth continuing. In most of the things that I've done since Connor's death, I've found that the majority of time when I can say yes to this question...is when what I've done has helped another grieving mother. For my pregnancy with Sean, I purchased two outfits. A preemie outfit for if he died and a regular outfit for if he lived. I took both to the hospital with me the day he was induced. Thankfully, I donated the preemie outfit to the hospital. So for my pregnancy with Keira, we did the same thing. This time I knew who was receiving the preemie outfit. It was a family, whose daughter had a terminal condition and would only live for a short period of time. A few weeks after I was home, I received a thank you card in the mail. This family had included their daughter's obituary and a lovely card of gratitude. In the card, she indicated that she would "pay it forward" and begin donating to the hospital little outfits for unexpecting parents that will need them. I know that the first outfit brought some other mother comfort just as much as the second one did but somehow knowing it...well, makes a difference. I know what you may be thinking...I just want someone patting me on the back but it's not that. Every response doesn't pat me on the back, instead it validates Connor's life and purpose. And yes, for that...I can't get enough.

So I guess I'm hoping this blog will eventually be a source for additional ways to "Pay it Forward".

Monday, July 30, 2007

What's the difference...

I get asked this question often. What's the difference between parenting and parenting after loss? I'm surprised that I can never really answer this question clearly despite the overwhelming feelings I have related to this fact.

For starters, a grieving mom's world is different. I don't know how many times I've had to hear "if something were to ever happen to my child, I would just die" and my thought (not response but thought) is "welcome to my world, only you're not that lucky to die instead you have to live without your baby". The unimaginable is reality. Their worst fear is my life. A grieving mother doesn't have innocence. A grieving mother doesn't assume everything will work out and be ok. A grieving mother doesn't pretend that death is not an option. This is the viewpoint that everything is now placed into. "Oh, your baby doesn't do that yet..." response "at least he's breathing". "If you don't put your toddler into a good pre-school, it could seriously set him behind the curve..." response "he'll still be breathing".

Yet when we do allow ourselves to worry about what our child is doing, the worry is ten fold. I know what you're thinking "all moms worry, how can it be any more?". Well, I'll tell you. Do you think that if you do x, your child will DIE? Do you think that if you child doesn't do y, your child will DIE? No, you worry about whether your baby is a genius or that you are not doing the right games with him. Let me be clear, I understand that and do not judge you for that worrying. I just worry about different things. He has an ear infection (which Sean has only had one), only I didn't think just give him some antibotics and he'll be fine...I went to this being some strange diesase being misdiagnosed and he's going to DIE! This constant -waiting for the other shoe to drop- feeling is relentless. Some innocent people will respond with "you can't live your life that way" but to this I reply "There's no one who wishes more that I could have my innocence back, but I can't. This wasn't my ideal life either but it's my life and the only way I can live it".

Then there's the isolation. Yes, some is completely self-imposed. I see judgements from other mothers when really they are not judging. I see stupidity when it's really just innocence. The best way that I can sum this up is that I am still aware of the lack of education related to pregnancy loss. I have a hard enough time continuing to remind myself that I didn't cause Connor's death...yet, I can't stop but continue to highlight this fact to others. Maybe I do think in some way that other people still assume I must have done something wrong and maybe this is just in my head but I don't think so. Want to know why...because I was one of them! Any time I heard of loss, I wondered what monitoring wasn't done...what warning sign was missed. I wasn't even a mother. I wasn't even considering pregnancy and yet I went there. I went there because I had to believe it didn't happen. So majority of the time, I'm left feeling like I don't TRULY connect with mothers that have not suffered a loss. I have many friends that stood by me after Connor died and even one mother that I met afterwards...so it's not to say that you can't but it's definitely harder to "fit-in" when you're "that one". To be my friend nowadays takes a significant amount of effort and willingness to go into the world of the ugly.

The issues that only grieving mothers face...how to tell Sean and Keira about Connor? How to not always be "sad" mama to Sean and Keira at holidays? How to be happy and sad when a child hits a milestone? How to be happy and sad when you see your children interact? How to incorporate loss into their life without being traumatic? How to answer the simple questions like "how many children do you have" and how you want to teach your other children to answer the similar sibling question?

Then the part that may be the worse for a parent...the guilt. I can remember saying a thousand times, don't take that baby for granted. If I'm able to bring a baby home, I will never take that child for granted. In most of the ways, I believe that I have fulfilled this but talk about pressure. I don't know a mother, who doesn't hit a point of "just get me away for a few hours" from her baby. Completely normal...taking care of a baby is extremely hard work. Now factor in this promise and have that feeling...HOW DARE I NOT WANT TO BE WITH MY CHILD EVERY MINUTE! So I stay put, then get nasty then fight with my husband then sob...all so that I don't have to admit that I need my own time. Because admitting that somehow indicates that I am taking my baby for granted.

Yes, most moms struggle but I dare say not to the lengths a grieving mother suffers.