Friday, December 16, 2011

2 Upsetting Issues & Counting

Everyone's talking about it, so I suppose I will too. The Duggars. We all know they lost their 20th child recently at 19 weeks gestation. I of course feel terrible for them, knowing the grief they are experiencing right now. But coupled with my sympathy for them is a mounting rage against all the people in the media/online community who are treating this baby's death as if it is somehow her parents' fault. I am here to tell you that even though I do not know the medical circumstances around this child's death, none of us should be judging.
I have now lost 4 children. Four. I've had two first trimester miscarriages and lost Tyler & Ethan due to preterm birth. I ask myself every day if their deaths were somehow my fault. I'm young, don't have health problems and followed all the rules while I was pregnant. What did I do wrong? If you know, please enlighten me. So when people point fingers at the Duggars and say that they had it coming and it's God's way of telling them to stop, I have to ask - do you feel I need to stop too? The Duggars have had one miscarriage and then this most recent loss. That's two. Two out of 21! I've lost 4 of my 5 children. Four beautiful souls were created and lost under my watch. Is that God's sign for me that I'm not fit to have more children? Should I stop now and just be "happy with what I have" instead of creating  and destroying additional little lives? I struggle with this question every day, and when the media gets their panties in a bundle over the subject, I really get upset.

And today was just the straw that broke the camel's back. You may have heard that the Duggar's released photographs of their lost baby, Jubilee. Some members of the media/online community are again in a frenzy saying that it is just gross to share pictures of your deceased child. One site I saw today actually said "Why would you take pictures of a stillborn baby?!" I'll tell you why. BECAUSE IT'S ALL YOU HAVE AND ALL YOU WILL EVER HAVE TO REMIND YOU OF THAT CHILD.  I was so mad I could spit, as my grandma says. If you don't want to look at their pictures, then don't. It's none of anyone's business how they choose to honor their child. I'll admit I have only shared Tyler & Ethan's pictures with a few people, and the only place they are displayed in  my house is in our bedroom, but I admire the Duggars for sharing the very tastefully done images of Jubilee with the world (the ones I saw were just of her hands and feet joined with her parents' hands; they were actually taken by the same organization that did our photos, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep). I hope to someday have their amazing courage.

Point being, we are not the ones who should be judging the Duggars or anyone else in this life. None of us can know what God intends for us, let alone assume what God intends for someone else.

If the Duggars could read this, I would say one thing to them: Try to celebrate Jubilee's life and the gifts that she has given you more than you mourn her death. It's what has gotten me this far, and I hope it works for you too.

Thanks for reading,

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


There are days when I feel like I don't have much to celebrate this time of year. We had a tremendous part of our lives taken away from us, and that still hurts, especially at this time of year when the focus is on family more than ever. We are supposed to be celebrating two little boys' first Christmas with toys, Santa visits and lots of pictures. Instead, I'm picking out the wreath I'll take to the cemetery. It really sucks.

But there are other days when I know that life is good. Even though we are missing Tyler & Ethan, we still have so much to celebrate. So to help remind myself how much I have to be thankful for, I made a list of reasons to celebrate this holiday:

- Addison. She is my oldest and my sunshine baby...she brings me joy every day, especially when she tells me I'm her best friend. Even if I had no one else, I would still be the luckiest person alive just by being her mom.

- Brad. He holds me together when I'm falling apart. He deals with my craziness. And he does laundry. I wouldn't be who I am today without him.

- My Family. I have been so lucky to have their support. They have gone out of their way to help me through this tragedy. I'm always free to talk about the boys, they respect my wishes when I need some time to myself or have a bad day, and they're here for us in ways that I had never stopped to imagine.

- My Friends. Another jackpot. My friends from "back home", my work friends and my neighborhood friends are like family to me. The outpouring of support from everyone has been tremendous.  I really don't know what I'd do without you all.

- Tyler & Ethan. Even though they aren't here, they still existed and I am thankful for that every day. Their lives will shape who I am and who I continue to evolve into. I can never thank them enough for that.

- God. Yes, He and I have had a strained relationship as of late. At first, I turned to Him and kept my faith strong. But going to church got so hard. I couldn't make it through Mass without crying, which really confused Addison. So I stopped going. Surprisingly, I was never mad at him. But I did feel hurt, let down and abandoned. I know I shouldn't feel that way, and I'm going to get back into going to church again. I hope to be celebrating Him again soon.

So here's to the holidays, and to finding things to celebrate. And remember that each of us needs to celebrate in our own way, be it by keeping busy, keeping quiet or just trying to keep it all together.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Here Come the Holidays

It all starts with Halloween. Costumes, parties and more candy than we know what to do with. Then in an instant, we're faced with Thanksgiving, then Christmas. We shop, we cook and we celebrate. Or at least that's the idea...

I couldn't figure out why I've been in sort of a funk lately, then today, after our area's first snowfall, it dawned on me. The holidays are approaching and it's got me down. I thought about the boys' first Halloween last week of course. I would have dressed them as a cow and a monkey because those are the infant Halloween costumes that I have. I think Tyler would have been the monkey and Ethan would have been the cow. Not sure why, that's just how I picture it in my mind. It was sad to think about that. But today, as the snow fell and I looked around at all that perfect whiteness on my way home, it really hit me. I remembered that it snowed the day Tyler & Ethan were born. To the best of my recollection, it hasn't snowed since, until today. It was a weird realization that time is moving so fast; it's already snowing again. And today would have been their first real snowfall. Next comes their first Thanksgiving, and then the dreaded first Christmas. Bummer.

I knew the holidays were going to be hard, but I don't think I realized how hard. I've already been busy gathering ideas to help us include the boys in our holidays, to try and make this a little easier. I want to make a donation to our local Toys for Tots of items that I would have bought for them on their first Christmas. We did our family picture for our Christmas cards at Disney and included Tyler & Ethan's stuffed puppies to represent them. But even with the best laid plans and trying really hard to celebrate their lives more than I mourn their deaths, I just can't help but feel a little down. It feels like they're missing out on so much, and so are we.

So this year, I may have to do things a little differently. Instead of being immersed in the holidays, we might just lay low. I'll of course make it a great Christmas for Addison, but I'm going to try really hard to make sure we get our own family time too and not run ourselves ragged trying to make it everywhere we're expected to be. I'm also a little afraid that I just won't feel much like celebrating, althought I know I need to be normal for Addison's sake. I guess we'll see what happens. All we can do is to do our best.

Thanks for reading,

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunshine, Bunnies & Other Signs

I'm a firm believer in signs. Not stop signs or signs of old age (yes, already!)...but signs from Heaven. My husband, however, thinks I'm nuts. Sorry Brad - you knew I'd rat you out to the world eventually. If you have ever lost someone close to you, you might understand why I'm such a big believer though. It's the little things that happen at just the right moment or out-of-the-ordinary events that you immediately see a significance in. Those are the things that scream out to me "Look Mom; we're ok!" And as crazy as it may sound, I see these things and I believe them. I have to. It gives me peace of mind that they're ok and that they don't blame me. So I wanted to share a couple stories with you...if you are a newly bereaved parent, I want you to know it's ok to look for the signs but also ok if you don't see them right away...

At first, I missed the signs. Constantly. Thank God for Robyn. One of my BFF's from back home, she's always been the level-headed one, and thankfully also very observant! At the funeral, our funeral director told me that they didn't put a canopy out at the cemetery, so he hoped it didn't keep misting/raining as it had been. He said "the weather is in Tyler & Ethan's hands today." When we got to the cemetery, it was overcast but not raining. Robyn noticed that at the exact moment when the priest started the graveside service, the sun came out.

Then there was the March of Dimes walk. We had 4 blue balloons tied to Addison's wagon and were going to let them go after the walk. Addison wanted to keep one, so that left 3 to release. Robyn had the camera and took pictures of us letting the balloons go. A few seconds after they were released, she started yelling for us to look at balloon had drifted off by itself but the other two were floating together. One of those two then swooped down and head-butted the other one...something Ethan had done to Tyler (or vice versa!) during an ultrasound one day. And they floated together for as long as we could see them.

Then there are the bunnies. We planted a memory garden in our backyard, and for a lot of the summer, we've had these two bunnies that were always hanging around it. It was ALWAYS two bunnies. I never saw one without the other, and sometimes they even appeared to be playing tag or something. I knew it was another sign. I even named them Tyler Bunny & Ethan Bunny and took their picture for the boys' scrapbook. Then a good friend from our neighborhood fell ill with cancer. During her last week at hospice, I was feeling down and walked to the backyard to water the memory garden. And that was the day that I saw THREE bunnies. A couple days later, that friend passed away. I saw those three bunnies one more time together, and now I haven't seen any of them since. I truly believe it was a sign that the boys and our dear friend have found each other in Heaven.
M - Love you, lady. Wish you were here, but I know you're taking good care of my boys and making one heck of a guardian angel to your family & friends.

So keep a relaxed eye out for the signs...look too hard and you'll miss them, but on the other hand, you need to have your eyes open to see them. No matter who you're missing, you'll find your sign.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Million Dollar Question

When Tyler & Ethan were about to be born, we were given our options. Regular delivery and only "comfort care" for them afterwards or emergeny c-section with long-shot NICU attempts to save them; the latter option they told me meant that I would always have to have c-sections with any subsequent pregnancies. I looked right at that doctor and sobbed "That doesn't matter. I'm not doing this again anyway."

With Tyler & Ethan, our family was supposed to be complete. We always said we wanted 2 or 3 kids, and their birth would have given us three. Then we were supposed to be a big happy family. But as I've said before, life doesn't always work out the way we plan it.

Now that I'm not in the haze of being newly bereaved, I can stop and think this through. When I stated that I wasn't "doing this again", I was so consumed with grief that I hadn't yet stopped to think about the little lives we had created. Even though they weren't ours to keep here on earth, they were still ours none the less. And we loved them. Their existance was worth every moment of heartbreak and every tear we cried. They have touched so many people and taught us all so much. I will never, ever, not even for a moment, regret that they existed. And that is what I need to hold onto going forward.

I told you previously that we had an appointment with the perinatologists over the summer where they examined our case and didn't find any reason or wrongdoing associated with the boys' premature birth. What I didn't tell you was that we also discussed trying again. They told us that we should wait 6-12 months to be safe, but that it looked very hopeful, given that we had Addison without any problems. They are still going to take me on as a patient, should the time come, and they would offer me hormone shots to help protect the pregnancy. They said the only thing that would scare them is if I were pregnant with twins again, in which case they would offer us selective reduction. Wow. That's a lot to think about and a lot to stress about. I'm not sure I'm ready for the worry, especially the prospect of twins again. I haven't told many people this, but my first miscarriage was suspected to possibly have been twins as well.

So we weighed our options and decided that if we don't try again, we'll always regret it. And if we do try again and we end up losing another child to Heaven, we know we'll be heartbroken but we'll never regret it. We don't know if God will bless us with another child or not, or whether or not He'll let us keep him/her. But we know we have to try at some point and let whatever happens happen. We just don't know when. And that is the answer to the million dollar question, even if it's not very concrete.

A few couples from our support group have lost a second child; two of them very recently. My heart breaks for these parents. No one deserves to lose a child, and especially not two or more. You'd think that the odds would be on your side, but it seems like the odds mean nothing in these situations. A friend from this group wrote a blog post recently about holding onto hope, even when faced with situations such as these. She's absolutely right, and I pray that these parents and all our bereaved friends find their hope again. And I pray that I find it too.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I Know Why You Avoid Me

And I understand. I was once on the other side of the fence. Walking along relatively carefree in life, I avoided painful or awkward situations. I hated going to wakes and funerals. I wanted to avoid seeing other people suffer. It wasn't because I didn't care; it was because I didn't know how to deal with it.

A friend shared a newspaper article with me a couple of months ago that talked about why it is our human instinct to shy away from these difficult situations. As bereaved parents, we are the victims of a "primary trauma." We witnessed the tragedy first-hand. The grief and the pain have hit us hard, and you can see it in our eyes. Everyone else in our life has been the victim of "secondary trauma." You are the ones who did not see this tragedy unfold first-hand, but you know we are suffering and you imagine what we are going through. The article talked about how it is our human nature to avoid pain. We want to protect ourselves from being exposed to this "secondary trauma." We want to protect ourselves from hurting too. We think if we avoid it and don't think about it, that we will not hurt.

I get that. But I want to explain to you that it's not so bad. If you read my last post, I quoted our funeral director who told us "imagination is worse than the reality." You think that you just can't get past the awkwardness of talking to me about my children, so you shy away when I bring them up. Or maybe you even avoid me completely. You don't need to. Most of my good friends have said to me that once we have that initial ice-breaker conversation, the awkwardness subsides and things are pretty normal again. Yes, I will mention my children's names. But no, I will not dwell on their deaths. I want to focus on what they've taught me and how I will honor their memories. And I want to spread awareness of infant and pregnancy loss so that every bereaved parent can have the support they need in a tragedy like this.

So give it a chance. Mention my child's name or at least don't look shocked when I mention it. Their names are music to my ears. I hope we can remember them together and grow as human beings in their name.

In honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day, and all babies gone too soon.
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Neglected Victim

If you're unfamiliar with pregnancy & infant loss, you may wonder who suffers the most when a child dies. If you ask my husband, he would say that I did, because I carried Tyler & Ethan and knew them the best. But if you were to ask me, I'd say that he suffered more, because he never got the chance to know them like I did. Either way, the parents' grief is the most profound, that is for certain. No one loves a human being like their own mother and father. I never knew how much my own parents must love me until I had my own children. Now I understand.

Oftentimes I'm a little selfish with my children. They're mine (ok, ours)! I want to be everything to them, and I want to be great at it. It's silly, but I get a little upset when people step on my parental toes and start doing things for/with my kids like they're their own. I think I've always been like that, but more so since the boys have passed. My kids are my everything (no offense, Brad - you're right up there too).

Which brings me (at last) to today's topic. The neglected victim. Any guesses who it is? Yep, it's my daughter, Addison. She was barely 3 years old when Tyler & Ethan died. Aside from enduring the death of our babies, breaking the news to Addison was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I knew I had to explain this to her, but I didn't know how. So I asked an expert...our funeral director. I remember he looked at us and said "imagination is worse than reality." He recommended that I tell her the truth, but in terms she could understand. So I told her that the boys were born too early and that their bodies didn't work. So their spirits, the part of you that makes you laugh and love, went to live with God. And since God is everywhere, the boys will always be with us. She cried a little, probably because I was teary when I told her, but  then she wanted to play. I wasn't sure if she got it or not. At the funeral, Diego asked if we wanted one last look inside the coffin (we had a closed casket service). We asked if that was ok with Addison around. Again, he told us that imagination is worse than reality. So we let her see them. And I'm so glad we did. While it was open, I read a book - Goodnight Moon - to all three of my children. I'm so glad we had that time together, and I'm so glad that Addison met her brothers.

Now, you might be concerned that I have just scarred our child for life. Not so. I truly think it was good for her. She asks questions about the boys, draws pictures of them and asks if we can send them things in Heaven. She talks to them when we go to the cemetery, and she includes them in her prayers every night ("...and please take care of Donut & P'sketti."). And she is sad for them, and for our family, that we can't all be together. It breaks my heart that she has had to learn about death at such an early age, and in such a close-hitting way. She's the victim we often forget about because we assume she's too young to understand. Truth is, she gets it, sometimes better than a lot of adults do.

So this October, let's remember our babies gone too soon, and let's also give thanks for our living children who have suffered and walked this road with us. No more forgotten victims.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Blame Game

So who's to blame for Tyler & Ethan's deaths? Me? My doctor? God? Depends on your perspective, but the answer I'm trying to steer myself toward is No One.

It is so hard NOT to blame yourself when your child dies. You feel like you've failed. You're their parent, after all - you're supposed to protect them. But sometimes, despite your very best efforts, things just don't work out that way. You find yourself analyzing every decision you've made. Was I gaining enough weight? Was I over-doing it, not resting enough? Was I too stressed out at work? Did God decide I needed to learn a lesson, and this was the only way to teach me? I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I sat down and tried to find an answer. I just wanted some way to justify what had happend. I thought if I could figure out why we lost our boys, that I could do something different to prevent it from happening again (if we are blessed with an "again"). But the truth is, there is no reason that I will ever understand while I'm here on Earth. There is no one to blame, not even myself (and the high risk docs said so!). So what I try to tell myself every time my brain starts to play the Blame Game is that there is no reason to be found and no one is at fault.

Now with that in mind, I also know that there are some people who may blame me for my childrens' deaths. I know they stand back and assume that I wasn't taking care of myself or that we made the wrong decision in not trying to resuscitate the boys. I can't say as I blame them, because there are obviously days when I blame myself too. We had a consult with the high risk doctors in July, and they analyzed our case. They said there was nothing done wrong. This was just one of those "freak things" that sometimes happens with twins, and they commended us for making a very "adult decision" in letting the boys pass peacefully without medical intervention. I had a list of questions for them, trying to rule out every possible cause for their preterm birth...allergy shots, the Benadryl I take with my allergy shots, stress at work, and half a dozen other things. They ruled everything out. They said the only thing I did wrong was double-ovulate and even that wasn't my fault. I want to get something out on the table, mostly so that I believe it myself rather than to try and convince anyone else: this is no one's fault, not even mine. I am a good Mom. Brad is a good Dad. End of story.

Thanks for reading!

Hugs to All,

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Better...but not All Better

I read an article that was shared by some friends on Facebook, and it made me realize that I need to clarify something. I keep telling you all that I'm fine, but I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I'm not cured, healed, over it, etc. I'm not all better. I will never be all better, even though I'm doing well. That's the thing a lot of people don't understand about babyloss: there is no getting over it. While we adjust and learn to live with our losses, we never stop hurting completely. We will always hold a hurt in our hearts, until the day we meet our children again in Heaven.

So my advice to you today is to not get frustrated with bereaved parents who seem to still be in a funk sometimes, even if it's been years since their baby(ies) passed away. Even though we've all lost someone close to us as some point in our lives, the loss of a child is profoundly different. When you lose a grandparent, parent or good friend, you lose a part of yourself and it is devastating, especially when that individual has gone before their time. It is sad and you grieve, sometimes for years.  All close family/friend losses, regardless of whether it was your child or not, are equally devastating. But when you lose a child, you lose part of your future too. From the moment a parent finds out they are expecting, they begin to build hopes and dreams for that child and for their family's future. Everything you think about regarding summer vacations, camping trips, next Christmas, etc. involves your unborn child. And when that child dies, all those dreams die with them. Your reality is changed, so you must build new dreams. And that seems impossible sometimes. You can't imagine a reality without your child(ren) in it. But reality has hit, and you get to a point when you know you have to go on and keep dreaming. It's what that child(ren) would want you to do.

To my fellow bereaved: Keep dreaming of tomorrow.
To everyone else: Be patient with us.
Hugs to you all,

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

We Need to Talk

A friend from group shared a great quote on Facebook one day. It went something like "A mother's instinct is to protect her child. When that child dies, it becomes a mother's instinct to protect his/her memory." And that is why we need to talk. Bereaved parents need to acknowledge that this child/children was here and made an impact on our lives. We need to bring them up like they're part of the family because they are! Even if that makes people feel a little uncomfortable. Sometimes we may be sad. Sometimes we may cry. But we need to talk.

Talking about our angel children has been one of the most healing things for me. We are so lucky to have good friends and family that want to talk about Tyler & Ethan, not to mention our awesome support group and all the friends we've made there. I continue to be amazed at the ourpouring of support we receive. Thank you to everyone who has lent me an ear in the last 6 months. You have no idea what it means to me.

Now all that being said, I have to admit something and apologize to my boys. Even though I like to talk about them, I still find it hard to address their brief lives with people I don't know very well. Last week I was asked by two separate people that I do not know well if I had had a baby recently. I was totally caught off-guard. I said the first thing that came to mind and it was "No." They even pressed a little with a question like "Really? I thought you were expecting?" Again, my answer was no. I am incredibly ashamed that I denied my children like that. I've been self-analyzing for a week now, and I think I was just too scared of how these people would react, since I don't know them well. I know how my friends/family/acquaintences will act, so I've learned to filter myself and only discuss these sensitive matters with those I know will listen (don't worry - that's a topic for another day). But almost-strangers?! What if I freak them out? What if they ask me for more details than I'm ready to talk about in public? I just panicked. It was wrong, and I am so sorry for it. I'm working on coming up with a one-line, closed-ended statement for these kinds of situations so that I can acknowledge Tyler & Ethan without having to tell a stranger my life story. Also working on not worrying about freaking people out...that's what this whole month is about after all - making pregnancy & infant loss a topic for discussion in society. If you have a suggestion for a one-liner, leave me a comment. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October 1 - Six Months In

Today marks Tyler & Ethan's six month birthday and the official start to Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month...and my first real post to this blog. I had a list of topics in mind that I wanted to discuss, but today I just feel like talking about where I'm at six months into this "new normal".

Six months ago I was obviously devastated. I knew I needed to heal, but I couldn't imagine a day when I wouldn't be sad, let alone a time when the good days would outnumber the bad days. I remember when I first talked to a friend from our bereaved parents group via email shortly after the boys died and she told me I'd find my new normal. I was really scared of that phrase at the time. I didn't want a new normal; I wanted my old normal. But slowly I began to see what she meant. The tears came less frequently. The self-blame subsided. Normal began to return, but she was right - it was a different sort of normal. Normal in the sense that life kept moving on the same way it used to, but new in the sense that not a day goes by that I don't fondly remember my beautiful twins and smile when I think about what they must be doing in Heaven right now. New normal is just fine.

I feel like I've grown as a person because of Tyler & Ethan; I'm a better mom to Addison and hopefully a better friend and family member too. The first lesson I want to share with you is to never ever take things for granted: your health, your family's health, and all the people in your life. When your kids are driving you crazy, be thankful that they're able to. I used to get upset at Addison for acting like a wild woman (ok, sometimes I still do!) but I know now to cherish every minute she's climbing the walls and talking non-stop.  She won't be this little forever, and I'm darn lucky that I have her. So go hug your children. If you don't have children, call your mom & dad. And cherish every day.

PS - we got a sign from Tyler & Ethan this morning. Addison and I went out to the living room when she got up and the TV turned itself on. Brad thinks Addison did it, but she says she didn't (I had my back turned and she was over by the toy box).

Happy 6 Month Birthday, Boys. Keep sending us signs. Love you always.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month. In honor of this, I've decided to start a blog to chronicle our journey through losing Tyler & Ethan; what we've been through, what we've learned, and what we hope the future holds for us. By sharing our story with others, I'm hoping to raise awareness of infant loss and make it less of a taboo/awkward subject. I hope you'll follow this blog and learn a little about my family and hopefully also something that will make you an advocate and supporter of bereaved parents and our angel children. Thank you for reading.