The Last Day of January

There was a time, about two weeks before Callie’s birthday, when I considered driving straight to my therapist’s office and camping out in the waiting room until she could work me in.  I haven’t been back since my last visit, and I know if I needed to it would be ok.  When I stopped to think about what was behind that feeling, I realized that what I was really craving was the time to grieve.  At therapy, I always had time to grieve.

It’s not that I couldn’t grieve at home.  I could, and I did.  But life, as it should, has marched forward.  Most of the time, this is fine.  More than fine…it’s wonderful!  But with Callie’s birthday looming on the horizon, I found myself needing the time to remember, to cry, and to feel.  I was so busy with life that I couldn’t find much time to deal with it.  And so, the flashbacks snuck in.  Not quite as vivid as before, but still sharp and scary.

Thank goodness for a snowy January.

I was given lots of little gifts of time this month.  So, I took advantage of them.  If I felt like looking through Callie’s scrapbook while Charlotte napped, I let myself.  If I wanted to smell the hat that she wore, I did.  If I wanted to reread our own story on the pages of this blog, I gave myself permission.

Most importantly, on her special days, John and I took time off to spend them together.  We reread every single sympathy card.  We napped on the couch and watched the clouds go by.  I let out a few big ugly cries.

We coped.  We got by.  We did it.

John and I were so touched by all the messages, cards, gifts, and phone calls that we received to tell us that you were thinking about us.  We especially loved seeing all the yellow that you wore.  It made us smile to think of how many people were wearing our sunshiny color in the middle of such a blustery winter.

And wouldn’t you know it?  It was a beautiful, sunny day, ending with an amazing sunset on Callie’s birthday when we tied balloons to the cross.  And when we let them go, the sun peeped out and shot sunbeams all around us.  She was with us then, just as she always is.

The sun peeping out on the way home from releasing our balloons

The sun peeping out on the way home from releasing our balloons

It’s the last day of January.  Thank you for doing so many acts of kindness!  Many of you used the K4C theme of “Yellow”:

Basket of Sunshine for Sorority Recruitment

Basket of Sunshine for Sorority Recruitment

"Table of Sunshine":  Yellow Donations for the Food Bank

“Table of Sunshine”: Yellow Donations for the Food Bank

Yellow foods for the food bank, a yellow basket of sunshine for sorority sisters during recruitment, a yellow car freshener and free car wash to the next car in line.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!  And so many others wrote to me to tell me about sponsoring meals for those in need, paying for the next meal in line, picking up the tab for a friend, and the list goes on and on.  Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart!  Knowing that so much kindness can come out of something so sad, really has a way of changing the way you look at things.

Thanks for the smiles.  We needed every one of them.

Stay tuned for February’s K4C theme:  Hearts!

xoxo

Callie’s 2nd Birthday

Have you ever stopped and listened to the lyrics of You Are My Sunshine?

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
You make me happy when skies are gray,
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you,
Please don’t take my sunshine away…

To my ears, it ends with a desperate plea:  Please don’t take my sunshine away.

Why did she have to go?

The second verse:

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms,
But when I awoke, dear, I was mistaken,
So I hung my head and cried…

My very last thought every night for the past two years is of holding you in my arms, Callie.  As I settle into dreams, I often pretend I can see you.

Can you see me?  

2:37 a.m. this morning marked two years since your birth on January 27, 2012.  This is our song.  It is a happy song, but one with a sad ending.  I wish I could change the lyrics, but then it wouldn’t be our song anymore, would it?

Happy birthday in heaven sweet girl.  You are loved.  You are missed.  You mattered.  You were here.

Now, you are there.

…But remain forever in our hearts.

Please Wear Yellow for Callie: Jan. 27-28th

 

Please wear yellow in Callie’s memory tomorrow and Tuesday.  It would mean a lot.  And please go do something nice for someone else.

 

Thank you so much for the thoughts, prayers, cards, and gifts.  We are lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.

 

I will always carry you, Callie.  All my life.

A Farewell Note to My Therapist

In the low light of evening, I paused and looked back at the office building behind me.  My eyes searched for the light of the room I have come to visit regularly for a year and half.  Finding it, I took a deep breath, wiped a tear, and turned back to my car.

That first step forward felt important.  Like I had just walked into a new existence.  I felt a sense of peace wash over me and I knew it was right, leaving there.

I had said goodbye to my therapist.

When I started going after Callie died, she told me that I would know when it was time to stop.  And I did.

It was time.  I had realized that mostly our last few sessions had just been about life.  Normal life stuff.  And that the few times that it was grief stuff, I could handle it without much help anymore.

She had done that for me.  Taught me how to handle it.  She listened as I cried, questioned, worried, and reminded me that it’s ok.  It’s all ok.  I let it all out there.  She heard my darkest thoughts and helped me let go of my guilt for them.  I learned so much about myself, beyond the grief.  Even though it was terrible circumstances that made our paths cross, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We had a great goodbye, with a  few tears.  She told me that yellow will always make her think of me and of Callie.  Butterflies will always make me think of her, but I don’t know if she knows that.

I never hugged her after our sessions even though I always wanted to.

Except the last time.

A big hug.  And a farewell to the most wonderful person that I hope to never see again.

I’ve got this now.

Signs

I’ve been thinking about Callie a lot lately.  Last night, after Charlotte went down for the night, I sat in a bubble bath and cried until I was a complete prune.  I’m not sure what brought it on, but I just had to cry and let it out.  I thought about Callie’s short life, her birth, her death, the aftermath.  I thought about how unfair it is.  I asked God the golden question Why?  Why do some people receive more than their fair share?  Why us?  I rehashed all of those things that I have been at peace with and had found acceptance with.  I was having a grief bubble.  A wave of sadness popping up in the middle of nowhere.  Actually, I was having a grief bubble bath to be more exact.

As I got out of the tub, I heard Charlotte down the hall with John.  She had woken up and he was putting her back to sleep.  I needed that grief bubble burster right at that moment.  To bring me back to the moment, instead of dwelling on the past.  A friend of mine wrote John and I a card after Callie passed that always stuck with me.  She said in a nutshell that there was nothing more painful than losing her daughter, but if that had not happened, her son would never have come into this world and she could never imagine her life without him.  When I ask myself Why??, I always think back to that card.  I don’t think having Charlotte was the reason Callie passed away, but I truly cannot imagine my life without her, so I cannot wish away this path that we have traveled down, no matter how painful it is at times.

I’ve seen signs of Callie lately.  Maybe she knows that I’ve been missing her.  Although I have prepared for it, I still feel like someone punched me in the gut every time a stranger sees Charlotte and asks, “Is she your first?”  I have tried every response…yes, no, a non-answer like “She’s our little sweetie pie!”, and even what I thought was bullet-proof, “She’s our oldest!”  When I used that one, a lady at church said incredulously, “Well, that means she’s your first!” in the same tone as, “Like, duh!” as if I was a total idiot.  I felt rage course through me as I envied a life where someone did not know the pain of losing a baby and how the first does not always mean the oldest.  When we went to the garden later, I said a silent prayer to Callie, hoping that she was having fun in heaven and living a full and happy life up there without feeling one ounce of heartache ever.  Because heartache sucks.  Big time.

But back to the signs of Callie…  There are many, but I’ll share my favorites.

First, the owl.  If you could hear me reading this aloud, when I come to the words “the owl” I would be saying them in a deep and dark mysterious and dubious voice.  Because, the owl freaked me out.

It all started back in the fall, when I was pregnant with Charlotte.  One night, I stayed reallllly late at school trying to catch up on some projects I had been falling behind in.  As I left the school building, I saw an owl, perched atop a road sign incredibly close to my car.  As I drove past, the owl watched me and I rolled down the window to take her picture.  At the time, I thought it was SO cool.  I mean, I’d never seen an owl up close before.  I was thinking of the children’s book Owl Moon and how it would be so neat to tell my students about my encounter.  I drove away, my mind already filled with other things and I did not think much more of it.

The Owl

The Owl

Until, that is, I pulled into my neighborhood, several miles away from school.  There on top of a light post was another owl.  I couldn’t see it up close, but I could tell by it’s silhouette that it was most definitely an owl.  Was it the same one?  It couldn’t be.  I thought to myself, That’s weird, and went inside to tell John about it.  How odd that I would have two owl sightings in one night!  Being a big believer in omens and signs, I broke the great commandment of Charlotte’s pregnancy:  Thou shalt not Google.  I searched:  Symbolism of an owl.  I was shocked to see that some cultures viewed owls as a bad omen and as harbingers of death.  If you will remember, I was just a teensy bit on edge with anxiety while pregnant with Charlotte (understatement of the year!) so I was freaked out that something bad was going to happen to her and I let my mind go to all kinds of awful places.  After much coaxing, John soothed me back into a semi-calm state and I was able to put it (kind of) behind me.

Later that night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard hoooo hoooo.  Hooo hoooo.  An owl hooting from our rooftop.

What the (bleep)?!?!?

John heard it too and I had both of us thoroughly freaked out by this owl.  Weeks and months passed.  We didn’t hear from the owl again and Charlotte made it safely into our arms so I had kind of forgotten about the owl and its freakiness.

Fastforward to a few weeks ago when I had the brilliant idea that it was time to move Charlotte out of our room and into her own crib.  She was getting too big for her bassinet and was sleeping through the night so it felt like she was telling us it was time to let go and move her out.  Being slightly on the paranoid side, we went out and bought an AngelCare motion sensor monitoring system to help us sleep a little easier at night.  As I shut the door to her nursery that night, I wept…WEPT…and called my friend, Barrett, because I was so emotional about this next step for Charlotte, who by the way could have cared less.  She was fine, but I was distraught over her becoming more of a baby and less of a newborn.  It was all going so fast!

After a few hours of watching Charlotte sleep on the monitor, analyzing every breath, and two false alarms from the AngelCare that gave us heart attacks…we heard it.

Hooo hooo.

Me:  “Did you hear that???” 

John:  “Yes, I did.” 

Me (frantically):  “Go get her!!!” 

And that is how Charlotte’s first night in her crib went.  The next night, we were so exhausted that we put her back in her room and we all had a great night of sleep…owl-free.

Looking back, I think that owl might not have been a bad omen at all…I think it was Callie, trying to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.  I mean, owls are nice in Harry Potter, right?  So, now me and owls…we’re cool.

Charlotte eyeing her owl toy suspiciously

Charlotte eyeing her owl toy suspiciously

As for other signs, yesterday, I absolutely know for a fact that Callie was trying to say hello.  It all started when I was talking to Barrett on the phone again in the parking lot outside of John’s school as I waited for him to come out to meet me for lunch.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a HUGE yellow butterfly landed right in front of me on the windshield.  It stayed just long enough to flap it’s wings once and then it flitted away.  Later on, as I was walking the dogs, I literally had to jump out of the way of another HUGE yellow butterfly that was hellbent on trying to land on me I think.  I should’ve let her, but things with wings freak me out when they get too close.  Weird phobia of mine.  Anyway, later yesterday evening, John and I left the restaurant where we were having a late dinner only to find ANOTHER butterfly on the driver’s side door of our car.

I don’t think any of these things were a coincidence at all.  Callie was with us yesterday, as she has been all along.

Have you ever received a sign?  I’d really love to hear your story if you have.  I’m always looking for the little things that prove our connection with something greater.  If you have your heart and mind open, you can find them everywhere.

xoxo

Mommy Meltdowns

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I have had exactly three  ‘mommy meltdowns’ since Charlotte was born.  The first was on her first night when we let the night nurse take her to the nursery and I felt guilty about it.  The second was when I got completely overwhelmed by too much information by a well-meaning lactation consultant instead of just listening to my own instincts.  And the third, came the other day, in our bathroom.  After a fussier than normal night, I stood staring at my disheveled self in the mirror after getting Charlotte down for bed.  My incision hurt, I felt like my stomach was getting stabbed from the inside out by horrendous gas pains, and my nipples felt like I had been given a hundred million titty twisters in a row.  So, I cried.

I’m sharing this because there has been something on my mind lately.  I secretly hoped that after having Charlotte, that I would be able to talk to other moms about being a mother and not feel different.  But the truth is, I am different.  Still different.  If I’m being honest, as I have fielded the usual questions that come with having a new baby, I have had to work hard to hide my annoyance and remain polite.  It has taken me a little while to dig beneath this emotion and discover it’s root.  Why would it bother me to be asked about how breastfeeding is going?  How is she sleeping?  How are you coping?  Didn’t I want to be a part of this club called ‘normal’ motherhood?  The only ones who seem to have been spared these feelings are my closest friends who have been with me ‘in the trenches’ and other rainbow moms.

I eventually recognized that old emotion bitterness creeping out from within.  It turns out I have a low tolerance for these types of conversations because typically those asking have never had to be in my shoes.  That the worst or hardest thing they have ever faced is how badly their boobs hurt or the frustration of a colicky baby who has robbed them of sleep.  I realized I resent them for it.  Isn’t that awful?  Saying it out loud makes me feel like a terrible person.  After all, it’s not their fault.  I would never EVER wish my experiences on anyone.  They are just well-meaning moms trying to welcome me to the club.

But, my club is different.  Rainbow moms know what I mean.

Instead of venting to you about the typical newborn baby issues, let me tell you about the challenges I have really found to be daunting.  Like getting out a baby item that has been sitting in the closet for a year and half and seeing that it is covered in dust.  Every speck of that dust pisses me off or saddens me depending on the day, but at the same time, I am so thankful to be able to finally put it to use.  Or, like plugging in the baby monitor that we spent a buttload of money on before Callie was born, only to find that the battery won’t charge and it’s been over a year so it’s out of warranty.  (A really nice man in customer service listened to our story and is sending a factory refurbished cord-  fingers crossed that it works!)  It makes me so mad!  Or, thinking about Mother’s Day and the bittersweet feelings it brings.  Or, accidentally saying Callie’s name instead of Charlotte’s.  Or, looking down at our amazing girl and simultaneously being overjoyed that she is here and depressed that her sister could not stay.  Or, staring at Charlotte and seeing a feature that reminds me of Callie.  Or, on the other hand, seeing her perfection and it reminds me of Callie’s fragility.  It’s just not fair.  I’m having flashbacks frequently.  I kiss Charlotte and remember kissing Callie right before she took her last breath.  And then I get scared that I could possibly experience that kind of loss again and I clutch Charlotte, afraid of what could be.  I imagine having to go through the loss all over again and how that would utterly ruin me to experience it twice.  That takes the whole ‘leaning over the crib to make sure your baby is still breathing‘ thing to a completely different level than your average mom.

I could go on, but I won’t.  Because really, although all of those challenges are difficult, they have not overshadowed the joy.  When I say that the past two and a half weeks have been amazing, I am not lying.  I am not glossing things over.  Because, to me, even my messy mommy meltdowns are a true gift from God.  I never said it has been a total breeze.  Just that it has been filled with tiny miracles.  Every cry.  Every breath.  Even the scabby nips.  Miracles.

Sometimes, when I write things, I worry about what people will think when they read it.  It is not my intention to make anyone feel bad if you have been one of the kind-hearted friends who has asked, “Hey, how’s it going?”.  And it’s also not my intention to make people stop asking.  Please, don’t stop.  You, be you.  No one should feel guilty for having a life I am envious of at times.  That is MY issue.  It is a delicate balance.  On one hand, I have to give myself permission to be a ‘normal’ mom.  To feel the same joys and frustrations as everyone else.  And on the other, I have to recognize and accept that I’m not your average mother and make peace with it.  (Who is, right?)  I was able to do that by the end of my pregnancy, and I am confident that I will work through those emotions again now that Charlotte is here with us.

Because this is my little slice of the internet, I write from the heart.  And this is what motherhood looks like for me right now, from the heart.

Scary.  Blissful.  Frustrating.  Amazing.  All at the same time.  Maybe I’m not so different after all….

 

 

**p.s. I have many Kindness for Callie updates coming soon!  Feeling blessed to be so supported in this effort :-)

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February

Talk to me in February.

That was my response to everything having to do with this pregnancy up until a few weeks ago.  Nursery?  Baby showers?  Preparation?  I couldn’t think about it until Callie’s birthday had come and gone.  It was just too much to process.

And now it’s February.  Actually, it’s half-way through February.  Holy crap.

I’m not sure what I thought would happen in this magical month.  But I do know that I was really looking forward to it.  I couldn’t wait for January to be over, for the worst year of my life to come to a close.  I would be able to turn the calendar page to February and be able to finally focus solely on our little rainbow and feel relief wash over me.

As I came inside the house the other day, I realized that our calendar is still stuck on January.  No symbolic page turn.  Frozen in time.

It’s fitting.

Because the last two weeks, I have been busily trying to avoid reality.  The thoughts and emotions that we experienced in January drained me and I desperately wanted a break.  A break from thinking, from feeling.  I just wanted to feel normal.  Like any other expectant mother.  Happy and care-free.  So, I filled every moment with nursery decorating plans and lots and lots of reality TV.  And I carefully ignored, avoided, and ran from the soft and quiet emotions flowing through me like a gentle, yet still powerful, stream.

It’s backfired.  Damming up this stream has caused these emotions to spill over into the most unexpected places.  These feelings have bubbled up on numerous occasions over the past two weeks in the form of stress, anxiety and worry, and, I must admit, some pretty powerful crying spells over the smallest things.  The slightest disappointments turn into huge emotional tailspins.  And because I was ignoring all of my feelings, I couldn’t figure out why.  I blamed it on the hormones, but my heart knew better.

Last night, I finally opened the dam and let it all out. And with it came the realization that I had impossible expectations. I subconsciously thought that after the “year of firsts” was over that I would be able to turn all of my focus and energy on my rainbow baby. Undivided attention. Only happy thoughts.

I’m not sure I can think of a single mom out there that has the capability of shutting off thoughts and emotions for one child so she can focus solely on another.  But, somehow that is what I was trying to do. And it’s impossible.  No wonder I felt such discontentment.

The truth is that decorating Rainbow’s room is bittersweet.  We decided to give her the guest room because it just didn’t feel right to use Callie’s nursery. Moving the furniture around and deciding what would stay and what would go was heart-wrenching. So is thinking about the two giant boxes of clothes that we saved from Callie.  For every happy thought, there is an equal and opposite sad thought as we recognize all the things we didn’t get to do or use with Callie.

And there is also the fear.

The undeniable fear that we could go through all the motions and be disappointed once again.  We could drive home with an empty car seat in the rear view again. Walk in to a waiting nursery with empty arms again.  This explains why I have had meltdowns over the tiniest disappointments. I’m having trouble coping with them.  The fear courses through me each and every day and there is no way to stop its flow.

My only hope is to ask God for a life jacket.  Trusting God right now is difficult and I’m not sure how.  I have felt tremendous guilt for doubting him and I know that I have not been able to fully surrender and give him my trust and faith.  But I’m trying. I want to.  My hope is that if I ask God for a life jacket he will help me float on top of the doubts and fears rather than drowning in them.

And so with one hand on my brass ring, and goofy floaties on each arm I’m going to do my best to forge through the river. We will decorate. We will plan. We will celebrate. But I will be careful to balance my babies, to remember, to acknowledge my feelings rather than damming them.  It won’t be like other mommies’ journeys. I have to get over that.

My prayer right now:  Believe. Float.  Amen.

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30 weeks down, 9 to go!