Thursday, November 23, 2017

The second 1st Thanksgiving

Holidays, family reunions, weddings – they’re all so hard.  Not because of something our families have done, not because it’s hard to be around them, not because we don’t like them.  I hear people grumbling about these events simply because they don’t wish to be around their families – that’s not me.  For me, it’s a huge reminder of everything I am missing.  I feel this deep hole so much more so when “all” the family is gathered.  Because I know it can never be ALL.

We were reminiscing about some interesting Thanksgiving stories earlier this morning, some carefree times.  Know what they all had in common?  They were 2011 or earlier.  Because 2012 was 3 weeks after Reagan died.  And that year, and every year since, I’ve felt this hole inside of me that at times only seems to be growing bigger.  My children are not here with me.  I’m missing seeing the joy on their faces as they taste pumpkin pie for the first time.  They won’t be helping me in the kitchen.  Reagan would certainly be old enough to this year.  Their little sweet faces will not be sitting around our dinner table, will never entertain the other kids at the kid table, will never fight over who gets the biggest piece.

This is our first Thanksgiving without Lucas.  And it’s catching me off guard with how hard it is.  With Reagan, it was SO recent, it was all I could do to get through the day.  But Lucas?  He was born 5.5 months ago.  The pain and grief is not quite as raw.  But, here we are.  Unable to get through the day, unsure how to go on.  I so desperately want my sweet boy back.  I want his cries to be adding to the chaos of the day.  I want these tears to be simply because I’m overwhelmed, not because of overwhelming grief.  Knowing there is a good chance it was my fault makes it so much worse, adding that layer of constant nagging guilt. 

But this is also the first Thanksgiving without Noah.  Without his twin.  Knowing that I should be pregnant, 17 weeks.  Knowing that, if I didn’t have my Lucas to hold anymore, we should be celebrating these lives growing inside of me.  Instead, I am empty.  Barren.  Broken. 


Of course I am thankful for my children that I get to raise.  I am learning more each year just what a miracle they are, how special they are, how blessed we are to have them.  But it does little to take away the pain of so many children we’ve lost through the years, named and unnamed, public and private.  I so long for that day when I will be reunited with my babies and our family will once again be complete.  Living in this broken world, well, sucks.  The only hope I have is the Hope in our future together because of our Savior.  Some days that brings me great peace.  Some days are still very much a struggled to even get through the requirements of the day.  Today happens to fall in that second category.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Hannah Grace Turns 2!!

Happiest of birthdays sweet Hannah Grace! 

I'm not sure I've ever met a child who is so full of joy!  This past year has been a difficult one, but you have continued to bring joy and excitement into our lives.  I love playing tea parties with you - and hippo and puppy.  I love the care and thought you put into exactly how you set each place and who gets what food.  I love seeing you interact with your brothers, holding your own with those big boys and yet still being so sweet.  You love those boys so much - they're the first people you ask for each morning.  Dee?  Yaya?  And you go running into their room, sure to be knocked down, but fearless nonetheless. 

I love how you still cuddle with me, my only child who is calm enough to just rest with her mama.  I love how you need me - how you cry out for me when you can't sleep or reach up for me when you are scared.  I love that you still cling to my legs when I try to drop you off somewhere.  I love reading you books, hearing you learn new words and point out new things on the familiar pages.  I love rocking and singing to you each night.  Even though you sometimes look up at me and quietly say, night night mama.

You are such a happy little girl, waking each morning with a smile.  You've spent much of your live just along for the ride, and seem content to do that.  And today??  Today, my precious girl, you are 2.  TWO.  How can that be?  How can you be growing up so fast??  I had so much fun celebrating your birthday this morning, having a special date morning with my now big girl.  In the past year you've learned so much - you've started to run and throw and tackle with your brothers, you love to ride your bike or the wagon and just take in what's going on around you.  You play dinosaurs and roar with the best of them, yet you are never without a purse and especially love shoes. 

I am so very thankful for you, Hannah Grace.  I'm so blessed to be your mommy, and only beginning to realize what a miracle you really are.  And I love you even more for that.  Thank you for being you - my sweet, spunky, stubborn, adorable little girl.  Happy birthday baby!!

XOXO

Mommy








Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy 5th birthday!

Happy 5th birthday my sweet baby girl!

I cannot believe it has been 5 years since I met you for the first and only time.  I remember having so many fears as I walked into labor and delivery, so unsure of what was going to happen.  I was afraid it was going to break me, the emotions and the pain of it all.  How could anyone survive?  I remember walking up to the desk, holding you protectively in my belly, praying that this wasn't actually happening.  I vaguely remember them talking me through the process but I didn't have a clue what to expect - you never should have come that early. We weren't ready for it.  Throughout that day, your daddy was my rock.  He rubbed my back with each contraction and read to me for hours.  As labor intensified and I knew you were almost here, I got so scared.  I didn't want you to be born yet, because then it would be over.  I would never physically feel any of you anymore, and that just seemed too much to handle.

But then you were born, and this switch happened just like I always dreamed it would.  In an instant, I was a mother.  I loved you so incredibly much.  There  you were, this little piece of me.  You looked so much like me, even though you were so little.  Same little nose, same eyes, same little crinkle in your forehead - Hannah actually has it too!  There was so much joy in your birth.  Daddy and I are still amazed at what a gift that was.  Such precious time together, time I will never forget.  I so vividly remember holding you for the first time, feeling you in my arms.  I remember singing you your first lullaby in the rocking chair, reading you your only little book, holding you close.  I am thankful for every second we had together.  And I've missed you every day since.  Even 5 years later, your absence is felt.  I wonder what you are doing - do you love tea parties like Hannah?  Do you run wild and carefree like Warren and Dean?  Do you pick flowers for us like we do for you?  Do you know how much we love you?  Because, sweet Reagan, we love you immeasurably.

So today, on the day of your birth, we celebrate you.  Well, we tried to anyway...  I imagine if you were still here, the day might have been a good indication of what you could have expected.  Temper tantrums from your brothers.  Followed my more temper tantrums.  Some potty on the floor and pooping in the tent.  A little bit of trick-or-treating with fights over candy.  We so desperately want you to have one super special day, but that doesn't seem to be real life at this point.  So, we did the best we could.  We made dinner and had some birthday cake.  We made (well, started...) cards for you with all the glitter you could ever want.  We sent you some balloons (only 3 this year - the kids popped 2 of them...)  And now we're settling down to look through our pictures with you.  Precious shots of us holding you exactly 5 years ago.

I cannot wait until I can run up to you in heaven and wrap my arms around you and have you return that hug.  To feel your arms around me.  I am so thankful that I was chosen to be your mommy, thankful for the profound impact you've had on my life and those around us.  I love you so much Rea Rea.  Always and forever.

Mommy






Monday, October 30, 2017

Five years closer

I cannot believe it has been 5 years.

Five years ago, my dreams of becoming a mother were forever changed.  In an instant, I went from blissfully unaware to broken.  I had never experienced such pain, never even knew such pain existed.  I remember the moment I saw Reagan's final ultrasound, the moment I realized something was actually wrong.  I will never forget seeing her perfect little profile, button nose, and relaxing for a half a second before recognizing that something much bigger was wrong.  I still see that ultrasound image at night when I close my eyes, even with our recent losses.  That image of her still - her chest empty.  With Lucas, that was much less shocking.  But with Reagan, that is the moment that haunts me to this day.

Five years ago, I realized that our family would never be complete.  No matter how many of our children I would carry, no matter how many little feet ran through our home, I would always be missing one set.  Now, I know that number will be much greater.  Mothering after loss has been incredibly difficult.  It's hard to find the right balance of joy and grief, enjoying the moment while still longing for what should have been.  That is especially true on these weekends, when we try to get away to escape it all, try to step away from the grind of daily life to do something special as a family.  Only to spend the weekend breaking up fights, diffusing temper tantrums, and trying our best not to completely lose it with our children.  I so desperately want to make these few days special, to create happy family memories, to somehow prove that God was wrong and she would be better off with us than with Him.  Mostly, it's a complete failure.

October 30 has been my "dark day" for the past 5 years.  Her birthday tomorrow gives us reason to celebrate - to rejoice as we remember those moments together, that feel of seeing her for the first time, the joy of holding our daughter for the first and only time.  But today?  Today brings only pain.  There were so many questions, so many fears in those hours after learning she was gone.  In a way, it was the end of this innocence I had.  A time when I was completely unaware that babies died outside of miscarriage and SIDS.  

Five years ago today, Andrew and I were lying in Reagan's nursery.  The last time it would be hers.  Surrounded by all these sweet girly things we never knew if we would use.  Most of which would be packed away for years, some were given away immediately.  Because, who wants to pass an unused carseat or stroller?  Hannah is wearing the last of Reagan's hand-me-downs, which only went up to size 12 month.  We're squeezing her into them because they are special to us.  But, after another month, all external traces of Reagan will be removed from our family.  

This is the first year I've faced Reagan's birthday when I've not been pregnant or nursing.  It adds a layer of pain I wasn't quite expecting this year.  I feel a bit caught off guard by it all.  Because, for the first time, I am coming to the very possible realization that our family is done.  That we will have no more living children.  Our doctors are not optimistic.  I have 6 more embryo, and there is a good chance that we won't be able to raise any of them.  Once we realized how many IVF embryo we had, we thought we would be facing the question of what to do with the others.  What would we do when we had 5 kids in our home, when I'd experience 4 c-sections and couldn't do another one.  But instead, I'm afraid we'll go through this process 3 more times only to end up emotionally and physically drained, and still unable to carry a child to term.  I've had some more tests run this week that may shed some light on things.  Or, it may all continue to come back normal as doctors continue to struggle to figure out what exactly is wrong with my body and why I keep killing our children.  There was so much guilt surrounding this day - so many unanswered questions - and that was before we experienced the loss of 3 more.  When we thought Reagan would be an anomaly and not the norm for us.  

This sucks.  There is no beautiful or poetic way to put it.  October 30 sucks. Always.  BUT...today we are 5 years closer.  Five years closer to spending our eternity with the little ones we never got to raise.  And tomorrow?  Well, tomorrow we break out the cake, send up some balloons, and celebrate our sweet Reagan, who made me a mommy 5 years ago.  Here's to you, baby girl!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day

"When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan.  When a spouse loses her or his partner,they are called a widow or widower.  When parents lose their child, there isn't a word to describe them" - Ronald Reagan, 1988

This month has typically been a month when our loss of Reagan becomes all the more real, when her absence is felt so much stronger.  This year, we experienced more loss than we ever expected to.  Lucas in June, Baby B in September, and Noah on Oct 1.  Starting the month off Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance with a bang.  I find myself today wondering how different life would be if we still had all the babies I've carried here with me.  See, it's a little different when all your babies were conceived at the same time with IVF.  We don't get the "well, if you hadn't lost so and so, you wouldn't have so and so."  Not true, for us.  They've all been around.  Anyway, Reagan and Samuel would be gearing up for their 5th birthday.  Dean and Warren wouldn't be 4, they'd probably be 2.5?  Hannah would be less than 1 - oh, what sweet days those were.  And Lucas, Noah, baby B - all tucked away in the freezer.  And today?  Well, today would be another Sunday, a trip to the pumpkin patch, maybe an afternoon nap.  Today would be a blip on our busy schedule.  I'd causally scroll past the 1:4 statistics that pop up here and there on my facebook feed.

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1:4 pregnancies end before they really even begin, resulting in miscarriages our society has become so callous to.  1:160 end in stillbirth, delivery after 20 weeks.  I never wanted to know these statistics, much less feel like my life has been built around them.  I never expected to be the woman who loses babies.  I kind of thought our infertility journey was long and hard enough that I would somehow be excused from these statistics.  But life didn't work out the way I had hoped and dreamed.  And, I am living that statistic.  Defying it, really, to have so many different losses, never for the same reason.

Today has been declared pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.  This day has made such an impact on us in the years since we lost Reagan.  It's been a launching point for Reagan's Garden - exactly 3 years ago today we launched in Charlotte.  And 1 year ago, here in Winter Haven.  I don't even have all the statistics anymore, as HIPAA makes things hard to track, but by last count we have reached well over 100 families, not even including families who have used the cuddle cots we have at various hospitals.  Beauty out of the ashes. 

I am part of an amazing organization of women.  For two years now, I have been blessed to speak on this topic, to answer questions, to break the silence.  I am so thankful that women are asking questions, wanting to know how best to reach out and support their friends/family who are walking this dark path.  And this week, we have plans to make another 32 cards and 12 boxes, to prepare as we anticipate ongoing loss in our community.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Date Night

It's been quite a year.  Pretty awful, actually.  Two weeks into the year, we did our first IVF treatment, followed by months of painful shots, morning sickness, "taking it easy" as I missed special events with the kids to give Lucas the best chance.  All for nothing, as he died 6 months later.  In a world filled with grief and sorrow, we decided to trust God and take another step forward, and we did another IVF transfer.  I felt confident that I was going to have boy-girl twins.  I KNEW it.  In this eerie, weird sort of way.  I never had a single doubt about this transfer, never questioned our decision to do two, although our doctor warned us against it.  He continues to tell me that my body is a failure and I will only kill our children - what do I do with that?  But, despite all the statistics, we decided to move forward, to give our next 2 children a chance.  Only to have that end as well.  I'm at a loss, in this new place of bitterness, questioning everything I've ever thought is true.  I don't know how long it will take to move into a different stage.  I don't know how to ever trust this God that suddenly doesn't seem so good.  One day at a time, I guess.

I feel like I've become the face of loss.  The woman no one knows quite what to say to, how to act around, or what to do with.  I'm not sure exactly who I am myself, so I certainly get where people are coming from.  I can't be too sad, because then I'm not moving forward.  But I can't be too happy or smile too much, because then I'm cold and unfeeling toward the children I've lost.  No matter how I feel or what I say/do, I always lose.  It's this pressure I've put on myself, I'm not even entirely sure that's how anyone else feels.  But to me, it's a constant struggle.  Pull myself together - don't show up to school with mascara running down my face or wearing my PJs.  But don't be caught laughing - because how can I smile and pretend I'm not completely broken and crushed??

But, for 2 hours on Wednesday, I was a person.  I was simply Meghan, wife of Andrew.  Not the face of loss, not grieving mommy.  I was able to go on a date with my husband.  A work function, but only the second time we have found ourselves without kids since Lucas died.  The first time since we lost Noah.  I was able able to focus on something other than my pain, to do something fun.  Sure, it was technically a work event, but I found myself in a room full of people who cared.  Who knew what we had endured and were willing to show me grace and allow me to drink a glass (or 2) of wine, paint a picture, and call it a night.  It was nice to feel like a human being again, to enjoy something - as meaningless as it may be.  An, though this artwork will never replace what is on our walls, it felt good to FINISH something.  A task I have struggled with immeasurably in the past 4 months.

"Moonlight Path"

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Survival

Ugh, this week has been so hard.  So hard.  I'm not entirely sure why the tears are coming so much easier this time.  It's like my pain threshold has been blown away and I'm feeling all the things I've hidden away over the past nearly 4 months.  And there is so much anger.  I used to be this lighthearted person who didn't really have a care in the world.  I used to laugh when I talked and sing in the car and dance around the house.  I'm not sure I'll ever get back there.  Can I be too broken?  I just feel like I've reached this point of no return.  Where I can hardly muster the strength to answer the phone, much less leave the house for something that isn't required.  And the thing is, I did this to myself.  My doctor said he didn't think my body was capable of carrying another child.  Thought I was setting myself up.  Turns out, he was right.  I had so much peace about our decision, I was so confident that we were having those boy-girl twins.  But, what does one do?  Should I leave my children in limbo world??  Frozen, stuck forever in this weird place?  I certainly can't do that.  And, there are 6 more.  But, how much heartache can one person take before it crushes you completely?  I have a feeling I'll be testing the answer to that question.

In the past week, we've ordered a few things for Noah.  He had 1 item - a canvas basket for his nursery that we would fill with his books.  Reading to my babies is one of my favorite things.  I picked it out while on my date with Dean; he approved too.  So, in the coming days, he will also have a frame for his ultrasound pictures and an ornament for our tree.  But, that is as much of a physical impact he will have.  I think that's one of the things that has made this so difficult - there was no moment of joy.  With Reagan and Lucas, I was able to birth them.  I had memories of them kicking and smiling and waving and sucking their thumbs.  I was able to hold them and kiss them and say goodbye.  With Noah, nothing.  One day he was there, heartbeat fluttering.  The next, he was gone.  "There is no sign of intrauterine pregnancy" is the way the news was delivered to me.  (Well, actually, I saw the empty ultrasound by myself because they wouldn't let Andrew come along and didn't think to turn it away from my sight.  But "officially", those are the doctors words).  We found a beautiful sign on Etsy where you can put multiple names and dates of birth of babies who were gone too soon.  As Andrew and I talked about ordering it, we came to the same realization.  We better wait.  Because, chances are, we'll be here again.  Three in 5 pregnancies have now ended in death.  How can it be that I've only had 2 live deliveries?  Only 1 born in the right trimester??  While it seems the rest of the world goes on with their continuous stream of healthy, full term babies?  I have never felt more alone, more isolated.  But the thing is, I don't even know how to be a person anymore, how to interact with other adults.  I'm just barely hanging on with my kids, able to pretend for brief moments each day.