Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Missing You at Christmas

Two years ago, we attended our first Holiday Remembrance Service for the Bereaved Parents of Madison group. It is a beautiful annual service held at a church in Monona, organized by some veteran members of our group that I'm lucky enough to call my friends now. There are beautiful readings, touching songs, and a reading of all our babies' names. I remember sitting in the audience that first year watching fellow bereaved parents take the podium and read memorial poems and excerpts so calmly and without shedding a tear. All while I sat in the pew silently sobbing over every word that reminded me of Tyler & Ethan (when you have a four year old, you learn quickly how to fall apart without anyone noticing). I wondered to myself, how do they do it? How do these parents find the strength to speak these touching words without completely losing it? I couldn't even listen to their words without sobbing. I eventually learned to talk about the boys without falling apart, and of course I can write about them until the cows come home, but songs and memorial poems/quotes have always had a way of making me tear up at a minimum. I just decided I would never be able to be that strong.

This year, however, I proved myself wrong. I was given the opportunity to do a reading for this year's service, and I accepted it. The reading I was given was incredibly "me". Here it is:

Excerpt from The Promise of the Rainbow...After A Child Dies by Patti Fochi Read
Tomorrow-not today- You will see the light in your darkness.
And you will learn to touch your precious child in your soul.
You will meet him spiritually and the emptiness will be somewhat filled.
It will become easier to speak than to cry.
And the heaviness will be lifted from your heart.
Your arms will no longer ache to hold him near.
And you will touch his spirit with your heart.
And he will kiss you in your dreams.
And the pain will slowly ease – but never go away- You will find joy again and laughter will come. You will once again feel the wholeness of your life -But never too soon- And only with the passing of time.

I took the podium this year and read that excerpt with my two guardian angels sitting on my shoulders, and I made it through. It was really a moment of triumph over my grief. I have to admit though, the first time I read that excerpt, I cried. The second time I read it, I cried less...and so on until I could do it without flinching. But I wasn't crying because it made me sad. The tears came because it is such a beautiful summary of what we've been through and how far we've come. I really have learned to meet my children spiritually, and that gives me peace. Over time, my wounds have healed but the scars remain. I can laugh, be happy and enjoy life in ways that I didn't think I could two years ago. It has taken time, but I've learned to look at the glass as half full. Instead of mourning what I've lost and how quickly Tyler & Ethan were taken from me, I thank God for the short time I had with them. I really believe their purpose was never to walk this earth; they were here for a short time to teach and then move on to Heaven to be our guardian angels. I know my life and my personality are completely different now than they would have been without Tyler & Ethan; they have changed me for the better. And for that, I am thankful. Glass. Half. Full.

So to all of my friends who are missing someone in Heaven this Christmas, know that I feel for you. Know that over time, your pain will lessen and you will smile again. Cherish your memories and remember to be thankful for whatever time you had with your loved one. The best way to keep him/her alive is to remember the lessons their life taught you and to find hope again. Remember that they are always watching over you always.

Merry Christmas in Heaven, boys. You and your sisters will always be my greatest gifts. Keep on smiling down on us.

thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Coming Full Circle

I can't believe it's been so long since I've blogged! Obviously I've been busy enjoying our rainbow baby Lexie and it's been crazy trying to adjust to being back at work. Today is literally the first time in almost five months I've had a free moment!
I've been thinking about this blog post for quite a while. Over the last five months, several things have happened that have to be more than coincidence; mainly in that people we met at the time of Tyler & Ethan's loss have made their way back into our lives to welcome their baby sister. It all started the day she was born...
I called into the triage desk to let them know we were on our way, and who answers the phone? None other than Sara, our labor & delivery nurse from the day Tyler & Ethan were born. She was on duty, ready to check me in and prep me for my C-section. It was so great to have a familiar face (and awesome nurse) at such a nerve-racking time. I really felt like the boys arranged the timing on that one!
Unfortunately I couldn't take Sara with me to the OR, but I had two fabulous nurses there as well - Jean and Allison. The surgery went great, but I knew there was something off...the nurses didn't bring Lexie over to us, and it took forever before they even let Brad go across the room to her. Turns out she had some breathing difficulties and needed to go to the NICU. Most people would expect me to totally freak out...but I didn't. For some reason, I felt really calm about it. I was confident that she was going to be just fine. It helped that the docs reassured us too of course (and maybe I was drugged up a bit too...). But now comes the next appearance of an old friend...another nurse who was near and dear to us while we were in the hospital with the boys was Ange. She was with me when we were informed that there was no stopping their delivery and that we would have to make some hard decisions. Ange transferred to the NICU after helping our family two years ago, and low and behold, she was able to take care of Lexie the day she was born. If I wasn't seeing the signs before, I was definitely getting it now. Tyler & Ethan were sending us a message that they were with us and watching over their little sister.
Now this last one really blows my mind. While I was on maternity leave, I volunteered at Addison's Vacation Bible School up at the Lutheran Church. I got talking to their intern, Vicar Don, a few times and always felt like I knew him from somewhere but couldn't place it. On the last day of bible school, they had a program and potluck at the church, and Vicar Don asked if he could talk to me afterwards. When we spoke, he said that he had been praying for us for two years...he was the hospital chaplain that was with us when Tyler & Ethan were born. I was almost too stunned for words. This is a person who really blew me away that day. Don blessed Tyler and then held and talked to him while Ethan was born. Had he not been there, Tyler probably would have laid alone in an isolette during that time. He then baptized Ethan before he passed away. I felt like he loved my boys like family that day. I couldn't find the words to tell him how much that meant to me, but I hope to track him down via email if our paths don't cross again soon.
What are the chances?! When I sit down to think about this, I know now that it is all part of a message. I think Tyler & Ethan brought these people back into our lives to let us know that everything comes full circle; nothing is ever all said and done. And even though we met these people in a time of tragedy, we were all brought back together for a time of joy and celebration with Lexie's birth. It wasn't just about us - I'm sure it was healing for our friends to be part of this joyous occasion too!
I understand now more than ever that there is no "good-bye"...only "until we meet again", whether that is here or in Heaven. Thanks Boys.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy 2nd Birthday in Heaven

Today is a bittersweet day. Two years ago, we said hello and good-bye to Tyler and Ethan. We were shocked, horrified and guilt-stricken about what had happened to our beautiful baby boys. I didn't know if we would ever find hope or the kind of happiness we had once known ever again. But now, two years later on this day, I am happy. I am hopeful. And we are getting ready to celebrate the arrival of our rainbow baby, Lexie. Our family has been blessed with the things that we never thought possible two years ago. And we owe it all to our angels...

To celebrate their birthday, I want to brag about my boys a bit. I want to take some time today to explain how I've finally found peace with Tyler & Ethan's death, becaue they're the ones who have given it to me. When we lost the boys, I spent a lot of time looking for answers. What had I done wrong? I also spent a lot of time asking them to forgive me; forgive me for not saving them, forgive me for taking them for granted while I was pregnant, forgive me for God not finding me worthy enough to keep them. This went on for a long time and it broke my heart even further, if that was even possible.

But over time, I began to feel differently. I attended the Bereaved Parents of Madison support group. I started this blog. I got involved with the March of Dimes and Mikayla's Grace. And I would receive the most amazing signs from the boys, letting me know that they were always right there with me. It would be something simple like two bunnies in their memory garden mischeviously eating the flowers, or during a balloon release how their balloons would always float two by two. I began to realize that they didn't resent me or hold me accountable for their death; why would they send me such love if they did? I also realized how much I've learned and grown since the boys left me. I've made changes in my life, in the way I parent Addison, in the things I stress about/don't stress about, that I would have never made if Tyler & Ethan had never graced us with their brief presence. I started to believe that it wasn't anyone's fault; it was Tyler & Ethan's destiny to be put on this earth with us for only a short while, before being given angel wings. And now, even though I can't see them or hear them, I can still feel them. I know they walk beside us every day and will continue to be a reminder about taking care of what's really important in life: family, friends and making a difference.

So today, as a birthday tribute, I am going to reiterate a promise to them. Tyler & Ethan, I promise you that you will live on in me. I will make a difference in your name, and I will see to it that you leave a leagacy. I will continue to learn from your death; to value what's really important and to not get bent out of shape over things that won't matter ten years down the road anyway. I will live for today, remember yesterday and be hopeful for tomorrow. And I will always love you.

I read a quote once that people are put in our lives for a reason. Some stay a long time, and others are gone far too quickly, but each and every one of them has a lesson to teach us and a gift to give (even when the experience with that person is negative, you can still learn something!). I think this applies to Tyler & Ethan completely. They were given to us for a reason, and even though our time together was short, that was all the time they needed to teach us a lifetime of lessons. Angels are amazing that way.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Two Kept Quiet, but Not Forgotten

I've mentioned before that I had two losses besides Tyler & Ethan, but I don't ever talk about them much. I want to take time this new year to start acknowledging those two angels as well, because their story is just as important. I'll start from the beginning...

Brad and I got married in 2003 and joked that we were on the "5 year plan" for having kids. Somehow that got changed to the "after Jen turns 25 plan" though. After many failed pregnancy tests and almost a year after we started trying, we finally got a positive result in February 2007, right after my birthday. We were so excited to tell our families that we didn't even wait for a doctor's appointment to confirm. This would be the first grandchild on both sides of our family. I thought things were going fine the first few weeks. I felt sick occassionally (which later I figured out was from taking prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach), and I had gained a few extra pounds, so there was nothing to worry about. Until I started spotting one night. I went into the ER and they did an ultrasound. There was no heartbeat, but they said my dates could be off and maybe the baby just hadn't developed a heartbeat yet. They could see what they called two "masses" on the ultrasound, which could either be an embryo that was starting to break apart (miscarriage) or two separate embryos (twins). They monitored my hormone levels for a week or two, did more ultrasounds, and ultimately determined that I was having a "missed abortion miscarriage." What an awful term. I felt like this was somehow my fault, especially when you throw the word abortion into the description. My body wasn't smart enough to expel the baby that had perished, so I had to go into the hospital for a procedure to have it removed. It was one of the most sterile, insensitive experiences of my life. They never acknowledged that this was my baby. It was always referred to as "the products of conception". And no one offered me any condolences or support at the hospital; it was just another medical event in their daily routine. Even after I was released from the hospital, I was surprised at the lack of support I had. Even some friends didn't want to hear about what I had been through. I heard over and over again that this was just nature's way of taking care of things and that there must have been something wrong with the baby, so I should be relieved that the pregnancy ended early. Given all that, I felt like I was just being over-dramatic by being sad about this miscarriage. So I shoved it under the rug. Very few people ever knew about it, besides family and close friends.I just told everyone at work that I needed some minor surgery and would be taking a week off.  I never grieved for that baby.

Our next attempt was successful, as we were blessed with Addison in February 2008, and we thought that maybe that miscarried child was just a fluke and a run of bad luck that was behind us now. Not so much. When Addison was 2, we decided to try for another. We found out we were expecting in July 2010 and were very hesitant to tell anyone. We only told our parents and anyone that caught me drinking non-alcoholic beverages at camping trips and summer parties (busted!). Unfortunately, we went down the same road as our first. I remember the dating ultrasound. The tech was an older woman who had a student with her that day. She scanned me and said "What's going on here?". I said "What do you mean?" She replied (very accusingly) "Did you give me the right dates? There's nothing here but an empty sac." I don't know how I kept my composure or how I didn't beat her with her transvaginal ultrasound probe, but I piped right up and said "No, the dates are definitely correct. I know what's happening. It's another missed miscarriage. I've had one before." That shut her up. The only good that came out of that appointment was that perhaps she and her student learned a good lesson in empathy that day. I was doctoring in Madison this time, and the OB I was seeing made sure to treat me sensitively and helped me to get this taken care of faster than what I had experienced with my first. I had a procedure done within a week. Same treatment by the Madison surgical team though; very sterile. That awful term "missed abortion" popped up again. I knew to not be sad this time though, as I didn't want to freak people out. Private tears were the only ones that fell. There was no grieving. Until March 2011...

March 18, 2011 was when the Perinatologists discovered that I was in severe danger of losing Tyler & Ethan. They put me in a consult room alone to wait for Brad to get there from work so that we could talk about the situation together. They asked if I wanted the hospital chaplain to come sit with me, and I said yes. She held my hand and asked me to tell her my story. I told her about how much we wanted Tyler and Ethan, and that we thought we had been blessed with twins to make up for the two miscarriages we had suffered. She asked me if I had grieved for those two babies. I had to answer no. I explained my story and it was all too familiar to her. We talked about how even though those babies didn't have names or identities, they were still my babies and it was ok for me to grieve them. It would actually help me deal with what was going on with my twins, to get all that pent-up grief put to rest. I took her words to heart, and I made sure to grieve properly for Tyler & Ethan after we lost them. But I have still never truly grieved or acknowledged my two miscarried babies.

As part of my new year's resolution for 2013, I'm going to try and do better to remember and memorialize ALL of my angels, not just the ones most people felt it was ok for me to grieve for. Yes, miscarriage happens a lot and yes, it is often due to genetic abnormalities. However, those facts do not make that child any less yours. It's ok to be sad after a miscarriage. It's ok to have genetic testing done to determine the sex so that you can name them (I would have, but I didn't know that technology existed at the time), and it's ok to grieve for them, to memorialize them and to remember them. You're not crazy - you're a parent, no matter whether your baby was lost in a first, second or third trimester. In fact, grieving that child is healthy. If you have suffered a miscarriage, know that you're not alone but also that you have the right to grieve. Take the time you need and take care of yourself. Even if that loss happened years ago, it's never too late to get your grief out and put it to rest. 

Happy New Year, Baby Walker 1, Baby Walker 3, Tyler and Ethan.  You are guiding me more now than ever, and I am so grateful.

Thanks for reading!