Sunday, September 14, 2008

1st week back to school

So I made it through my first week back to school/work from my mat leave/summer vacation relatively unscathed although I think I’m developing a split personality.

I should start off by explaining that my letter which I wanted to send out to staff before going back to school (see previous post) did not get sent out, well not to everyone. I ended up shortening it A LOT to just about 4 paragraphs and the lists of things to say and not to say. I knew that I should just send it out and not ask for approval from admin but I didn’t really follow my gut on that one and for some reason I sent a copy of my shortened letter to my VP who has been totally amazing and supportive way back from when I was even trying to get pregnant till now. I told her I was planning on sending the letter out by email and wondered if she could take a look at it and share her thoughts. The next day I checked my email to see 3 replies from her. Her first reply was very positive and supportive and basically said whatever would help me was what she wanted. The second reply was sent a few minutes later and said that the Principal wanted me to hold off on sending the letter for now. Then the final reply which was sent a few minutes later said that the principal wanted to deal with my letter through the department heads and have the information funnelled to the staff through them. I immediately sent a reply to both the VP and principal asking for a reason as to why they wanted to take this course of action and expressed my concerns with distributing my letter through this avenue. 3 days later I still had no reply and time was ticking. School was starting in a few days and I wanted people to have time to read the letter at their own leisure and not in the midst of the first day of school. I got totally stressed out and pissed off realizing that I was being ignored and that my letter was being brushed under the carpet or at least delayed so that by the time I was given a response it would be too late. I ended up calling the school’s union rep to see what could be done which was nothing. I was screwed. The principal had set out her agenda of what she wanted done and if I went against her plan I would suffer some serious consequences. So I finally called the VP at home who finally explained to me some cockamamie reason that the principal doesn’t want the letter going out because there are 18 new staff members that don’t know me and that my letter would be unnecessary for them. WTF? The only saving grace was that she had at least sent my letter to MY department head who thankfully sent it out to the math and business teachers (my department). I only found this out when one of the teachers in my department sent me an email saying that she appreciated the letter and wanted to know how I wanted to handle this issue with the students. After a few emails back and forth discussing how we have seen other sensitive issues being dealt with at schools we’ve been at, we agreed that honesty was probably best and more than likely the students would be too self involved to really notice or care. That’s teenagers for you.

So off to my first day I went, nervous and scared. As I got out of my car I saw a new teacher at my school also getting out of her. Funny enough I happen to know her from another school and she also did some supply teaching at our school last year when I was pregnant. So of course she looks at me surprised and says “Hey, what are you doing here, I thought you’d be on mat leave.” I was like is this really happening? I haven’t even set foot into the school yet. Anyhow, I replied with ‘I guess you didn’t hear what happened. They died.’ Shit I felt so bad for her. She was like ‘I’m so sorry. I just put my foot in my mouth. Yada yada yada.’ I put my sunglasses on, walked into the school and thought to myself ‘my life sucks!’ I spent the rest of the morning staff meeting wearing my sunglasses and avoiding making eye contact with anyone. I really wished then that people had gotten my letter. At least when people were trying to approach me I would have known that they were doing so with good intentions and knowing where my head was at. But instead when people looked at me, smiled and asked ‘how are ya?’ I was thinking ‘do they know? Do they remember? Are they asking out of general concern or was that just a polite hi?’ It was so awkward for me. I felt like I had to show them that I was still sad and was not ‘fine’ but then felt like people would think I’m so rude, moping around and ignoring people, giving half smiles and responding to the ‘how are ya’s?’ with “crappy”. I really didn’t know how to act.

This feeling continued as I walked into my first class. My homeform this semester is my grade 11 accounting class, thankfully my favourite subject to teach. As the kids filed in I was so torn. I wanted to show that I was still sad but I also knew that I had to start off the year with a positive tone so that the kids would like coming to class. As I looked around the room I saw many faces that I recognized having taught them in grade 9 and grade 10 the last 2 years. But at the same time realized that they probably wouldn’t have known what happened to me. Some of them might not have even known that I was pregnant seeing as I was only teaching grade 9 and 11 last year when I was pregnant and these kids would have all been in grade 10. By the end of the period I had lightened up my mood a bit realizing that these kids don’t know, don’t care and certainly are not going to ask about Cole and Breanna. After the bell rang a couple of students packed their bags more slowly and stayed behind to ask me something. I braced myself for what they might say but they were telling me that they were going to be absent the next day and next week, etc and wanted to know what they were going to miss. *sigh* As the day continued I developed a new personality, ‘the happy teacher.’ Who the hell was this person? I felt like I had never left and was right back in the swing of things. The rest of the week continued much the same way. I was this different person in class and then after class or in the hallways every time a student approached me I thought ‘okay, is this going to be the student that brings it up?’ and it wasn’t. They wanted to know about tennis, deca, grade 12 accounting, the accounting contest, or just tell me that they are in my class next semester, yippie! As I left on Friday I stopped in for a quick visit with Nicola, a co-worker that lost her baby in January and became close with over the past few months. We came to the realization that even the students that knew I was pregnant might not realize that I should be off this year because I left last year in April and they probably think that my twins are at home and that I’ve had my mat leave and have returned to work. Great, now I have to be on my toes in case some kid asks how my twins are doing. Oh I really wish I knew what they knew. But how do I find out without ‘spilling the beans’ so to speak.

As for the staff, I have done a really good job of avoiding everyone for an entire week. I’m still torn between feeling the need to show that I am sad, which I don’t really know how to do without being considered a complete bitch and feeling the need to be happy. I do enjoy life and still laugh, smile and have fun but I don’t want people to think that just because I’m laughing and smiling that I’m fine. I haven’t forgotten about Cole and Breanna and I don’t want them to forget either. Thankfully some of the members in my department have been amazing and really supportive. At lunch a few of us hang out in our department office while we eat our lunch and talk about different things like our classes, students, even our personal lives and my mentioning Cole and Breanna or all the crappy feelings, fears and crazy situations that arise because of them doesn’t make them uncomfortable. I really feel I have my letter to thank for that. In fact some of them even mentioned how much they appreciated my letter so that they knew what to say and how to help me.

For now I’m living and coping day by day. My new split personality is helping me get through teaching my classes and make the experience as untainted as possible for my students. But thankfully I know I have an outlet at lunch were I can be a bit more of myself. I feel like it’s okay to laugh in front of them at lunch because they know deep down that I haven’t forgotten and I know they haven’t forgotten either.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Caution: Grieving Mother - Enter at your own risk

Below is the draft of a letter that I am thinking of sending out by email to my coworkers to help make my transition back to work more manageable. I go back in just over a week and I'm scared about how I will react when people ask me how I am or when people pretend nothing happened. I hope that sending a letter will help others figure out what to say. Dug says (and I agree) that my letter is way too long and so I'm in the process of modifying and shortening it. My problem is that I feel like it is my only opportunity to get my thoughts across and I don't want to miss anything important. Anyhow, here it is.

Dear coworkers and friends,

With the start of the school year approaching I wanted to send out some information to help you and help me after the death of my twins, Cole and Breanna. In all the bereavement materials I have read (oh how I have read) it says to ‘let people know what you want and need. Friends and coworkers are uncomfortable and don’t know how to deal with such a situation and end up saying and doing things that are hurtful when they think they are being kind.’

First off you should know that my husband and I are proud parents of twin baby angels Cole and Breanna, and just like any proud parent we love to talk about our babies. In our eyes, they were perfect. Although they may not have joined our family in the way we expected, they are still a part of our lives. So before you can ask me ‘how my summer was’ I will share with you that it has been an emotional and difficult few months. Grieving their passing has been and still is difficult and always on my mind.

Below are some things you can do to help me:

Say Cole and Breanna’s names when you talk about them; they are real and it makes me feel good when others acknowledge that. Granted I may cry, not because you are opening an old wound or reminding me of something sad, but because you are showing me that you care and that means the world to me. The more you use their names and talk about them in natural conversation the less I will cry. Having said that, there is an appropriate time to talk about them and I prefer not to cry in front of my students.

Please be understanding that I may not be in complete control of my emotions all of the time and your understanding if I cry is greatly appreciated. From what I hear it will take several years to adjust to the loss of a child and learn how to incorporate it into my new life. I write this letter in hopes that you will know what I am thinking and feeling but please note that I am STILL grieving and therefore all advice in this letter I subject to change without notice!!

Realize that nothing is comparable to the loss of your child. I appreciate the sentiment if you say “I know what it’s like, I lost my parent/sibling/spouse/relative/best friend”. It shows me that you are TRYING to understand and that you are at least familiar with grief. But it is only helpful if you acknowledge that it is not the same as losing your child. They are your own flesh and blood and losing your children goes against the natural order of things. So unless you have lost a CHILD you really have no idea what it is like.

Saying that you understand what it’s like because you have had a miscarriage is bittersweet. I appreciate the effort you are making to understand what it is like to be in my shoes as long as you realize that I gave birth to two babies that were alive and subsequently died. NOTHING can compare to that. And FYI, I have also had a miscarriage so I know the difference and hopefully I will not have too many more on the road to creating a little brother or sister for Cole and Breanna.

Here is a list of things you can say if words escape you:
“You are in my thoughts”
“I can’t imagine what you are going through”
“I’m here for you if you want to talk”
“I don’t know what to say”
If all else fails a simple “I’m sorry” will do

Now let’s talk about the Don’ts:

Please don’t ignore me (ie leave the room when I come in or turn the other way when you see me coming down the hall) – I am not medusa. We don’t have to talk about them. If you are uncomfortable please just tell me. All you need to say is “I’m sorry but I am uncomfortable dealing with such a loss” and I will never mention them to you.

Please don’t tell me about miracles that have happened to premature babies that are alive and well. It does not help me to hear how modern medicine has made such advancements to save premature babies. They could not save my babies and I will forever be haunted by the thoughts of ‘what if’.

Please don’t tell me that I am young and will have other children. This is so painful on many levels. One, I’m actually not that young in terms of child bearing years. Two, there is no guarantee that I will have more children. It took us a year and a half of fertility treatments to have Cole and Breanna. And three, and most painful, is that even if I have more children nothing will ever replace Cole and Breanna. I will love them forever and they will always have a place in my life. Having another child will just mean that I will have to teach someone else, that never met Cole and Breanna, how important they were to me.

Please don’t say “At least you didn’t get to know them or get too attached”. I carried these babies for 6 months and wanted them for many years before that. I was attached from the second I peed on a stick. I felt them kick and could distinguish between their personalities in my womb. I knew them very well. In fact it’s worse that I didn’t have them for very long because I have no good memories to look back on, only what I had hoped for. The wonderful day they were born was also the horrible day they died.

Other things NOT to say are:
“You should be over it by now” – anyone who has lost someone significant in their life can attest to the fact that you NEVER get over it you just learn to live with it.
“It was for the best” or “it is gods will” or “meant to be” – Really that’s not helpful. For the best would be them being alive and with me right now.
“You need to find the bright side” – there is none.
“You need to get on with your life” – I have, it’s a different life, the life of a grieving mother

Here is a little poem I found that sums up my letter best.

You think that silence is kind but it hurts me even more.

I want to talk about my child who had gone through deaths door.
Don't say these things to me, although you do mean well.
They do not take my pain away; I must go through this hell.
I will get better, slow but sure -- and it helps to have you near.
But a simple, "I'm sorry you lost your child" is all I need to hear.
Author unknown

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I know how difficult and uncomfortable the thought of losing a child is. I appreciate your effort and all the support I have received so far.

Audrey Hogarth
Proud mommy of twin angels Cole and Breanna

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Due Date Balloon Release

Many people in the baby loss world have several dates that are significant to them regarding their baby. Most celebrate the day their baby was born which is also the day they died. May 3rd and May 4th will always be their special days. The days when my babies were born and became angels… as many in the baby loss world call ‘angelversary’. I know those will be difficult days in the coming years but I want to try and celebrate them…not think of it as the days they died but as the days they joined our family.

I often heard that the expected due date is also a day that people commemorate. I feel like I too want to commemorate that day but I’m struggling to find a date to pin down as their due date. Their official due date, when they would be 40 weeks, is August 30th although at one point it was August 28th. But we never really thought of that as anything significant because we were told that I would be induced at 38 weeks if I hadn’t already delivered them by then, which they expected. Dug and I knew they were going to be early, I was thinking they’d arrive mid to late July, because they were twins and I am so small, so we were getting everything ready. We had bought some preemie clothes and supplies. They were hard to find so whenever we saw them we picked them up thinking we’d rather be over prepared than running around at the last minute trying to find stuff to fit them and figured that if they were too big for the preemie clothes we would donate them to the NICU or multiples association.

So the problem is what day do we commemorate as their due date? I know I don’t need a day because I think of them and honour them everyday but I feel like I need something tangible to hang on to, focus my energy on so that my entire summer for the rest of my life is not a big empty vast space of grieving. I asked Dug what he thought and he had said “Well if you want the date that I expected them to arrive that would be July 15th”. I started to cry. It was already August. I missed it. I felt so awful. How could I have done nothing to commemorate their day?

A week later Natasha came to visit after her appointment with Dr. Donahoe (the psychologist we are both seeing) and she mentioned that Dr. Donahoe asked her if she was going to do anything for Henry’s expected due date, which happens to be August 30th as well. I shared with her that I was so sad because I felt like I had missed the day that we expected them and then gave her ideas as to what people on the message boards had done such as butterfly releases, balloon releases, going to their grave, or just doing something special.

That weekend I went to the store to get some balloons blown up for my friend Amy’s shower. There I saw balloons with Winnie-the-pooh and Eeyore on them. They were so cute and thought to myself ‘those would be great for a balloon release for Cole and Breanna.’ As I drove to Amy’s mom’s house for the shower I started getting emotional, for seemingly no reason (not that it’s that unusual nowadays) but then I thought about it and realized the date. It was August 16th… Cole and Breanna would have been 38 weeks today. I would have been induced today!!! That’s it, today is the day. I figured when I get home from the shower I’ll pick up those balloons and we’ll do a balloon release. I suddenly felt much better. But then I got worried about what if the store closes, so I called Dug and told him my idea and asked him to pick up the balloons while I was at the shower so that we’d have them ready.

Just before the shower started my friend Becky surprised me with the most amazing gift. She had gotten two stars in the Taurus constellation named after Cole and Breanna. I was so touched by such a thoughtful gesture. And it made the day just that much more special to commemorate Cole and Breanna. I knew this was perfect!

When I got home from the shower Dug had the helium balloons ready and we drove to the cemetery. We pulled out our blanket that we keep in Dug’s trunk for when we have picnics at the cemetery with the kids. We sat down and read the information packages that came with the Stars that Becky had gotten named after Cole and Breanna that she had given to me earlier that day. We told Cole and Breanna all about their stars. Then we wrote messages on their balloons took some pictures and released them. It was so windy, they just took off. Dug had tied the two balloons together so they flew away together. Dug and I stood there, holding each other, watching the balloons until they got so high and so small that we could no longer see them. It was perfect!! The weather was perfect and the sky was clear, which is really amazing because this summer has been so rainy and cloudy. Becky’s gift was perfectly timed and to top it all off we were leaving the next day for 2 weeks in Florida. I was so relieved to have done something special that day to commemorate them and the date had significance. It may not be when we expected them or when they actually came but it was the last possible day for them to have been born and I’m thankful that we did something for that.

Starting a new blog

I've decided to move the location of my blog to here. I started a blog (well more like a collection of essays) back in May after my twins Cole and Breanna passed away. I have found it helpful to sort out my thoughts and theraputic in that it lets me get stuff off my chest. My hope is that I will be able to look back on what I have written and see how far I have come in my grieving. I originally started my blog at WTE ( since I was there already on the message boards during my pregnancy and it was one of the first grief and loss message boards I found after they passed away. But I have since realized that there are some problems and limitations with their blog site. First off, it was driving me crazy everytime I went on there to see pictures and advertisements for babies. Second, they added a word limit which was really annoying because the entire point of this is to help me deal with issues and I can't do that if I have to limit what I write. And third, is that I could not post pictures which I love. So here I am starting this new blog and thinking I should probably move all of my old posts here. Oh boy, what a chore!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Hate Doctors

So I have come to the realization that I officially hate doctors. I don’t know why I had put them on this pedestal as ‘those in the know’ when really they know nothing and care about less. Basically through this experience I have found them to be totally insensitive and it sucks. After losing Cole and Breanna I have been to see my fertility doctor, my high risk clinic OB and my GP and none of them can explain why this happened or have even touched me to try and find out why. No ultrasounds, no pap, no checking my cervix, not even a physical...nothing!!!

I didn’t expect much from the fertility doc and he basically said what I figured he would say…. “We’ll see you when you are ready to start trying again.” I thought my OB would have been more hands on but he said there was nothing they know of that caused my water breaking early and it was probably an infection that made Cole come and Breanna just followed. The only information that I got as a type of possible explanation is that my uterus maybe didn't grow fast enough causing Cole's water to break and that it probably wouldn’t have happened if it was a singleton pregnancy. That's it. No tests to follow up or anything. I was shocked. How could they just shrug my loss off like that?

I started wondering ‘what was the point of being registered at the high risk clinic during my pregnancy?’ I had appointments every few weeks but they didn’t do anything. Even under their supervision I still lost Cole and Breanna and they have no explanation for it. I mean what do they DO there other than waste my time? And after my water broke all they would say EVERYDAY was “We’ll just have to wait and see”. Well I waited and saw my babies being born premature and die. How can they not stop that from happening? The OB just shoved us out the door and said ‘we’ll see you when you are pregnant again’. Arggg, I hate that hospital!It’s a baby making factory so if you’re not pregnant they really don’t have time for you.

So I figured my GP would be my best ally in getting to the bottom of this but when I was telling him about how upset I was that no one was checking me or interested in finding out why this happened he responded with "miscarriages happen". Holy shit, did he just call Cole and Breanna a MISCARRIAGE…ARGGGGG! I was so pissed and said "I really hate that you said that... it was not a miscarriage... I gave birth to 2 live babies." He interjected with "but they were preterm" and then went on to say all the things it says in all the pamphlets NOT to say to a grieving parent... like, "you need to move on", "you will get pregnant again", "think of the all the other people that have it worse." Basically have another baby and forget about it!!!! Dug even remembers him referring to what happened as an abortion… wtf? ABORTION… is he asking for a kick in the head? All I was thinking was what kind of f*cking *ss doctor is he?Does he really have a medical degree? I left his office furious and thinking I'm writing this idiot a really nasty letter with a picture of Cole and Breanna saying does this look like a f*cking miscarriage and include a brochure from BFO about what NOT to say to a grieving parent. But… I need to make sure I can find a new doctor first.

So Dug has a friend at work that also had a baby loss a few years ago and suggested that we see his wife’s doctor. She wasn’t really taking new patients but said she’d meet me and consider it. Well when we went to see her we basically got the same shitty insensitive response. She basically said ‘have another baby and you will get over it.’ I was like ‘oh my god, is it possible that I am just crazy?’ I left her office so upset and really starting to doubt myself and all that I have been doing to work through my grief. Have I been wrong? Should be trying to forget what happened? It feels so wrong to ‘forget about it’ and I don’t think I can possibly ‘get over it’. They were my babies, a part of me, a part of my life. I guess they just don’t ‘get it’. I figured because they are doctors they should know and understand but they don’t. I don’t know why I thought they would because really unless you have experienced a perinatal loss you can never understand.

So now I am stuck. We are approaching 3 months since we lost Cole and Breanna and I’m scared it’s too late to find out why this all happened. I don’t want to get pregnant again just to have it happen again and then realize that if they had just run some tests the first time they would have been able to prevent another loss. I keep ‘meeting’ people that have had a preterm baby loss due to incompetent cervix and they say that all they need is a stitch after the first trimester and everything should be fine. What if I need that? Or what if it’s something else just a simple to ‘fix’ but we won’t know because we didn’t check. I’m so scared to try again without knowing why this happened. Help!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sharing my babies

I was struggling with an issue and I thought I’d write about it to help me sort out my thoughts again. The problem is that I’ve been so scared to put anything on Facebook regarding losing Cole and Breanna mostly because I never even posted that I was pregnant and thought I would really freak people out if I did. Like “Hi, yes I know you didn’t even know I was pregnant but now they’re dead… have a nice day”. People would thing I was crazy. Plus, everyone else that was pregnant was posting status updates as well as belly and ultrasound pics and for some reason I didn’t. I barely told anyone. I’ve been having a hard time trying to figure out why.

I guess one reason was that I was in denial. In fact for the entire 1st trimester I was in denial. I don’t know how I could have been in denial because I was so nauseous and fatigued the entire time, it’s not like my body wasn’t screaming “I’M PREGNANT!!” but I still was so apprehensive. I thought it was because I had an early pregnancy loss last year and when I made it through the 1st trimester this time I did feel a bit better but I still didn’t really tell anyone.

Another reason I guess was because I was so sick and exhausted (normal pregnancy sick and exhausted) and I wanted to be feeling good and happy when I told people not nauseous and miserable. I was waiting for that pregnancy glow… but it never happened. I remember the first, and one of the only times, I went out with friends when I was pregnant. I was so scared to tell them over lunch that I was pregnant for fear that I was jinxing myself. Dug and I sat across from each other and he was like “are you going to tell them” and I was like “you tell them” and they finally were like “tell us what” so Dug had to announce it. I couldn’t believe it but I actually cried. They were so happy and I was so scared and so not feeling like I wanted to be feeling that I cried. I felt so stupid. I wanted to be healthy and happy when I told people…not miss grouchy pants but the pregnancy hormones were wearing me down I felt awful.

But probably the biggest reason for not telling people was that I was just so scared that if something went wrong I would be so devastated. How would I deal with it and all of these people knowing? I thought it would be easier if I just didn’t tell anyone. Like I was protecting myself from getting too excited and that would stop me from getting attached. But that is just so ridiculous. I was excited and I was attached. From the very second I peed on a stick I was attached. But now that something did go wrong I can't believe how much I wish I had told people so that they would know how much my babies meant to me and I could get their support and understanding. Funny how I was trying to protect myself and now I hurt so much more because I feel guilty and stupid for not telling everyone, like I was trying to hide them. The fact that I didn’t tell people makes it so much harder now to announce that I lost them and that I don’t want to hide them.

(** Note: this is in reference to my old blog site and therefore this was seperated into two posts: Okay so in addition to this blog website being down forever so that I couldn't post anything.... now they have also added a word limit. Probably because people like me ramble on forever. lol. Anyhow, I'll continue....)

I should probably explain for those that don’t know, Facebook is a networking website that EVERYONE around where I live is on. People post pictures, videos, comments, and status updates of what they are doing, join groups, announce events etc. It’s the ultimate way to find out what your “friends”, current and those from a previous life (eg elementary school, camp, etc), are up to. I was on it before I got pregnant and would sometimes spend hours searching for people I know and surfing through friends pages, and friends of friends, friends of friends of friends… eventually looking at pages of people that I had no idea how I got there. I was never really a status updater but I posted pics and wrote on walls, etc. Now that I have lost Cole and Breanna, Facebook has become an amazing tool in helping me meet and connect with others that have had a similar loss and I am on it all of the time, especially since I’m on mat leave and really have nothing else to do. I have joined baby loss groups, become friends with other people that have had a loss, joined their groups in memory of their babies, viewed pictures and videos of their babies and use it daily to keep in touch with my new friends.

So, about a month ago, following the lead of my new friends, I got up the nerve to write something about Cole and Breanna on Facebook for the first time. I had posted a status update about missing them. I posted it after midnight and tossed and turned all night (as usual, I never really get a good sleep anymore) and woke up early the next morning and had to remove my status. I guess I just wasn’t ready … for what I don’t know… but I wasn’t ready. But since then I slowly started adding them to my page. First in round about ways; creating a group for Peek-a-poohs which I have been collecting because they remind me of them, then posting a poem I found which so eloquently described how I felt. I now I have applications that refer to them and written status updates about how I feel.

My new friends have all been extremely supportive and some of my best friends that I have known for years and know about Cole and Breanna have also written me amazing and supportive messages. But, now I’m starting to get messages from people that didn’t know that I was pregnant in reference to what I have posted. I figured this would happen and I’m slowing trying to figure out how to respond. I want to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and especially not freak out anyone that is currently pregnant but I have come to the point where I don’t care. I love my babies and miss them soooo much, I can’t pretend they don’t exist. They have had a major impact on my life and I want to share them with the world. It hurts too much to bottle it up and not show how much they meant to me.

I was so happy when one night over dinner Dug said the same thing. He was telling me that he wished people would ask about Cole and Breanna and that he could talk about them. He wants to show their picture to people and wonders why no one asks to see it but is afraid to just pull it out and say “want to see a picture of my dead babies?” I’ve come to the realization that we are proud parents of beautiful twins and just like any parent, we love to talk about our kids but unfortunately they don’t do anything new so there is nothing to talk about.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Loving and Letting Go

Regret and guilt are the worst stage of the grieving process I think. I have been having a really tough time dealing with my feelings of guilt and regret. I was okay blaming Cole's death on my doctor because he did not give us a choice as to if we wanted to try and take aggressive actions to save him when he was born. The doctor had always given me hope that Cole could be okay and that he might have enough water to develop his lungs but when push came to shove and Cole was born, the doctor just shook his head no when I asked can’t you do anything to save him. The doctor said that he had no chance because his lungs would not have developed after his water broke at 21 weeks. So instead we just held him until he died, which was 2 hours later. But with my daughter Breanna, I have no one to blame but myself. I made the decision not to take aggressive actions if she were born soon after my son Cole. When I arrived at Mount Sinai we were given a bunch of statistics on her odds of living if she was born at 23 weeks and if she did live how horrible her quality of life would be. She would likely be blind, be developmentally and physically challenged, and require life-long custodial care. We did not want that kind of life for her so we decided that if she were born that week we would chose palliative care but if I had managed not to go into labour that week and she stayed inside of me then we would revisit our decision based on her new odds. At the time the decision was made it looked like she wasn’t going to come then. I was down to 4 centimetres and hadn’t felt any contractions. But now, knowing the outcome, I wish that I had made a different decision. I don't know how they could have possibly let me make such a major decision seeing as I had just lost Cole... I was not in my right mind. I'm feeling so guilty now and I feel like I didn't even give her a chance. She only survived for 30 minutes but maybe with the machines she would have been fine. Dug insists that we made the best choice FOR HER because being born at 23 weeks meant she would likely not survive and would have spent her last moments suffering with tubes and if she did survive she would have a terrible quality of life. But I can't help but feel that I threw away the slight possibility of having her here with me now. I never even gave her the chance to fight. She never did anything wrong, her water didn't break; she was perfectly healthy and happy during my pregnancy. Maybe if we put her in NICU she would still be with us. All the people I have met so far on message boards and groups have either had still-borns or chose to take aggressive actions to save their babies. I'm so scared that I'm the only one and that I made the wrong decision.

A fellow grieving mommy, Jane, lent me a book entitled “Loving and Letting Go: for parents who decide to turn away from aggressive medical intervention for their critically ill newborn" by Deborah Davis. I have been reading it but very slowly. At first because I wasn’t ready to let myself off the hook or didn't feel ready or open to allowing myself to not feel regret about the decisions we made. And now it feels like it hits too close to home. Some of the epiphanies I have arrived at through my reading are that doctors don’t like to lose babies either and I think that is what started my regret spiral. We had an appointment at Credit Valley to see my OB that delivered Cole. After Cole was born the doctor had me transferred to Mount Sinai hospital between deliveries because he thought Breanna would have a better chance at a better NICU. But seeing the disappointment in his eyes when he found out transferring me didn't do any good was awful. That's when I thought to myself... shit we didn't even try and all the “What ifs” started.

The book has also helped me realize that I will always be full of “what ifs….” I could what if all the way back to Cole and Breanna’s conception. What if I hadn’t pushed so much for multiple follicles during our last fertility cycle? What if I had taken off work fully and been on bedrest from the beginning? What if I hadn’t eaten that chocolate bar? What if I had gone home like the doctor suggested and I didn’t get an infection? What if I had realized that I was having contractions? What if we had chosen to try and save Breanna or been more forceful and tried to save Cole? What if ….. And I will always be filled with “I wish…..” I wish I had spent more time with each of them, I wish they were born at the same hospital so that I could have spent time with them together, I wish I had not been so scared about what people thought and taken a MILLION pictures, and above all I wish I still had Cole and Breanna.

The book says… “You can CHOOSE which assumptions to make: Ones that let you live in peace, or ones that torture you. Whatever assumptions you make doesn’t change the outcome or affect your baby. It affects only you and your quality of life. Give yourself permission to accept your decisions as best for your baby.” (pg33)

Reading that and knowing that guilt is a normal stage of the grieving process have helped me to get through this regret spiral. Thankfully I have found a lot of support through message boards from people that have had similar experiences. Talking to them and knowing that they have made similar decisions has been comforting. Dug and I also had a huge heart to heart talk one night about the choices we made and why we made them. He reminded me of all the things that happened and what we were told that I seem to have blocked out of my memory. I know deep down we did what was best for Breanna but I still can't help but wonder “what if” and think about the “I wish”.

Dug summed it up best when he said to me as he broke down in tears that Breanna just wanted to be with her brother. We had each other and she did not want Cole to be alone, so she only stayed with us for a short while to comfort US and then left to be with Cole. My baby girl was so selfless. She truly was beautiful on the inside and out.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Card Shopping for Father's Day

I knew buying father’s day cards would be difficult but I never imagined that it would be THIS difficult. Anyhow, I decided to tackle it yesterday and it was NOT fun!

I have only seen my dad cry 4 times that I can remember. The first was a few years ago at some random moment when our entire immediate family was in Phoenix for Passover. My older brother, his wife, their two children, my younger brother, his girlfriend (now wife), my dad and I (unfortunately my boyfriend, now husband, could not come) all sat around the table having dinner outside on the patio of the house my older brother rented for the week. My dad was telling stories and during one story about a friend back in Morocco he started to tear up. I still to this day have no idea why but I remember Aimee and I talking about it shortly after and commenting that my father had gotten a lot more emotional as he got older. I could imagine that the fact that he was having a nice family dinner with his three grown up children that lived in different cities and even different countries and were starting their own families might have been a bit touching to him.

The second was on Friday, January 11th. It was the day after his birthday and I went to his house for our usual Friday night dinner together but this time Dug was able to come because he was off work. We had the best birthday present ever to give him!!! We came into his apartment and did the hello hugs, and kisses and then I handed him his birthday gift and card. He opened the card and looked curiously at what was tucked inside. “What is this?” he asked as he turned it around and tried to figure out what it was. “It’s an ultrasound picture” I said. He still didn’t get it. “I’m pregnant!” I said “We’re having twins!” as I pointed to the two little blurry circles on the piece of paper. “Wow, that is so wonderful!” he said and then he started to cry. I couldn’t believe it. He was even happier than Dug’s mom was when we told her, although that was over the phone so we can’t really tell.

The third time I remember so vividly and I wish I didn’t because every time I think of it, it makes me cry and feel so awful that I had caused his pain. It was on Sunday May 4th, soon after Breanna was born and we let the grand parents in the delivery room. The nurse had Breanna and was putting her in a little dress off to the side. Dug’s parents were crying and went to be near her (although none of them picked her up or even touched her as far as I could see) but my dad stayed by the door and would not or could not get any closer to her. He looked at me with tears streaming down his face and said “can’t they do anything for her?” And I realize now just I am typing this that I responded much like Dr. Smith did when I saw Cole for the first time and asked him the exact same question. I shook my head No with a sympathetic I’m so sorry face.

The fourth time was at Cole and Breanna’s funeral. My father had written a beautiful message but felt that he could not read it so he gave it to my older brother to read. As my brother said the words that my father so eloquently wrote, so much so that I thought it was from a book, my father and I grasped hands so tight and with tears in his eyes he apologized for not being able to read his words himself.
I’m sure there have been many more tears after that and I feel awful being the one that brings them on. I remember reading in the grief pamphlets that grandparents suffer the most when there is a baby loss. Not only have they lost a grandchild and all the things they wanted to do with that child but they also feel like they have failed in protecting their own child from feeling so much pain. So what to do for father’s day this year? I sifted through the cards along the wall and for almost every card I read, I cried. People must have thought I was crazy. Kids were picking out cards for Dad and grandpa, wives for their father’s and husbands and I was standing there crying my eyes out. Every time I read a message it made me think about “what could have been”. I struggled with the choice of whether to get him a grandfather’s card from Cole and Breanna. I know that I don’t want to pretend that they didn’t exist but I’m not sure my father could handle something like that. And I thought about the tears I would bring on and how I had already caused so many. I eventually found a card that talked about how glad I am to be his daughter and on the front of the card was two little sets of baby foot prints. I thought well maybe this would be okay. It was clearly a “From you Daughter only” card but I felt it also symbolized Cole and Breanna without having to say anything about it. I still worry if it is still too in your face and I’ll have to see when I give it to him. I may just leave it for him as I leave rather than stand there and have him open it and read it in front of me over dinner.

As for my husband…. What to do? Finding a card for him was also difficult. Do I get him a card from Cole and Breanna or one from all of us together? No matter what I knew I had to recognize them… we are both on the same page in that regard….thank god! But how emotional should I get? There was the “father to be” with all this hope, the “first time father” filled with joy, the “from your daughter” or “from your son” talking about all the memories they have shared. Where was the card for the “father that lost a child” I wondered? With each card I read, tears streamed down my face in sadness of all the things that I wish we could have had, and what could have been.

I found some from you wife and realized that may work best. I ended up buying two and haven’t decided which one to give him. One is more of a “we are supporting each other” and the other is talking about “how proud that he is my husband and the father of my children.” The latter might be too difficult for him to receive but I love it and part of me thinks deep down he will appreciate it.

After I decided on getting both and making the final decision later, I turned my attention to what should I get from Cole and Breanna. I thought since mine was so emotional I’d get him something more happy and fun from the kids. I really wanted to get him something with Winnie the Pooh since the characters remind us of Cole and Breanna, but there wasn’t any, and I went to 3 different stores to look for cards. I finally stumbled upon a card that I liked. It had a doggy in a plane writing “Daddy” in the clouds. I thought wow, it’s like Cole and Breanna sending a message from the sky. I figured I’d add some Winnie the Pooh stickers to the card too to make it more “them”.

As I am writing this I realize that I did pretty well. Granted the process of looking for the right cards was extremely emotional but I think I got some great cards that I am now more comfortable with now that I have written about them and explained why I chose them. Maybe there really is something therapeutic about writing a blog. Hmmm.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Reality Check

I feel like I’ve taken many steps forward in my first month of the grieving process and yesterday I feel like I was thrown one huge step back. I had been finding it very comforting to go to groups and talk about my feelings. I had attended one meeting by the PBSO with other couples that had recently lost a baby and I went to a meeting at the BFO that was not starting a group for lost babies until September but had an informal meeting with three other mommies. I also found the grief and loss board at WTE and Share message board full of people with similar losses. Everyone was so kind, comforting and understanding of my loss. They knew what I was thinking and feeling. They were thinking and feeling the same things. They made Cole and Breanna real and made their loss feel significant.

After so much success in these other forms of sharing I decided to go to a Share and Support night at the BFO. I knew that there would be people with all different losses but I also knew three other ladies that would be there that had lost there babies. One that I had met at a PBSO meeting and lost her baby a day after birth due to an intestine rupture, one that had lost her baby at full term and was born still due to a cord incident and one that had lost two babies due to premature birth many years ago and she now worked at the BFO and was facilitating the mommy group.

As I sat in the room and looked around before the meeting officially started I suddenly felt like I don’t deserve to be here. I lost my babies at 23 weeks. I was only just over half way. My loss was so insignificant. I actually considered getting up and leaving but thought that would make more of a scene and draw more attention to me and my insignificant loss. I suddenly realized that by surrounding myself with all these people on message boards and groups that had lost babies I had deluded myself into thinking that my loss was somehow significant but now that I was in the really world the reality was that it wasn’t. It occurred to me that all my friends and everyone I know in the “real world” not my comforting “baby loss world” must be thinking “what the f**k? get over it.”

As the group started and the facilitator talked about memories I again realized I have no memories I only have the memory of what would have been, what I had hoped for. I was grieving the loss of a dream not actual people. Then came the time to go around the room and share our loss. I hated that I was sitting right next to the facilitator. I was going to have to be first. I tired to think about how I could make my loss not sound so insignificant. I imagined what people would think if I had said I was only 23 weeks along and what they would have imagined would come out at 23 weeks. I know that before I saw Cole and Breanna I had some crazy thoughts about what they would look like so early in the pregnancy. I know I thought they wouldn’t look human and if they didn’t look human then why would I be grieving for them. All I said was “I lost my twins, Cole and Breanna, after going into labour preterm”. Simple, to the point but without giving away that I was ONLY 23 weeks which I imagined people thinking would be like losing a baby at 8 weeks which I had lost before and although I was sad, probably mostly because it was the first time I actually got pregnant after a year of fertility treatments but I certainly wasn’t in need of a support group. I cried, moved on and started trying again. I never even considered grieving the loss. (My apologies to anyone reading this that has suffered an early loss but that’s how I felt).

As we continued sharing around the room I didn’t feel any better. People had lost their parents, spouses and children at all ages 2 through 22. Even the other lady that was grieving her preterm losses said her story better than I. She said she was remembering her two babies that she had given birth to prematurely and they died shortly after being born. So much better said… explaining that they were alive, they were actual beings that she was grieving. The conversation continued and people were invited to share about ways of remembering and experiences dealing with mother’s day and upcoming father’s day. I wanted to talk, share my mother’s day story but just couldn’t. I felt so wrong being there. I felt like they wouldn’t agree that I was a mother and I just couldn’t stand to feel that after I had just dealt with that issue and felt that I resolved it. It was like I had taken two steps forward and then reality taking me one step back.

After the meeting, people got up and started talking to each other. The facilitator who was sitting right next to me initiated a conversation with me. He asked about my loss and I shared with him my concerns and fears that I did not deserve to be here. To my surprise he actually perpetuated the thoughts I had. He said “wow that is an early loss.” I explained to him that I was worried that people must be thinking that what came out at 23 weeks was not even human and to that he actually said “what did come out?” I imagined that he must have thought they were just two grotesque blobs of human tissue and so tried to explain that Cole and Breanna looked so normal and perfect just small. I had to validate them by explaining that they were alive, and moved their little fingers around. I got the feeling that he didn’t really believe me so I said I had pictures of my babies and I took out my wallet size photos of Cole and Breanna to show him that they were real, they were human. To my surprise his response to looking at the pictures wasn’t you’re right, they do look so normal. Instead he was shocked and he said word for word “wow they were SO SMALL. I’m assuming that is your hand in this picture and your hand is not very big”. I couldn’t believe it. If a pastor was thinking these things what must all of my friends think? No wonder they have all just disappeared and not known what to say. They must think this is such an insignificant loss. Well if it’s so insignificant why does it hurt so much?

Well this was my reality check. I need to join the real world. I haven’t figured out if that means agreeing with the real world and getting over it OR sharing with the real world what my babies looked like and showing them that they were human. I’m a little afraid of what they would think of that. My babies are beautiful to me but I’m their mommy, mommies always think their ugly kids are beautiful. My babies are also beautiful to others that have had a premature loss because they know what it’s like. But to those in the real world, my babies must look creepy or scary or I don’t know because I don’t see it but I certainly saw it in the eyes of the pastor and it wasn’t pretty. :(

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Belated Mother's Day

Mother’s day this year pretty much went unnoticed and I was a bit upset and surprised about that but had no idea how to even approach the subject. I knew that Dug knew mother’s day was approaching because he mentioned that we had to send his mom her birthday and mother’s day gifts soon but I didn’t really know what he was thinking in regards to me. Anyhow, mother’s day came and went and nothing. Even an entire week went by and nothing. Well, a week and a half later, this past Wednesday afternoon, we went to the BFO office to meet with a lady, Debra Davidson, to talk about our loss and get us connected with a grief group. At the meeting we talked about our story and how we were feeling. At one point she asked how mother’s day went and I just looked at Dug and we both responded that we ignored it and left it at that. Later that day, as Dug and I walked through the mall looking for a birthday gift for a friend I realized that I was really upset about this mother’s day issue and wanted to bring it up but didn’t know what to say. I started tearing up because it was really bothering me but at the same time I didn't want to upset him or have him feel guilty. I mean I wasn’t really sure if I was even entitled to celebrate mother’s day. Was I a mother? Did HE think I was a mother? Dug noticed I was crying and said what’s wrong and I just blurted out “Don’t get mad but I just want to know why you didn’t get me anything for mother’s day?” Not that I wanted a present, but a card or a gesture to show me that he felt I was a mother was what I really needed to feel validated. Well, he was quiet for a moment after I asked and I could tell that he was surprised by my question, especially as it may have seemed to him to come out of the blue. I think that I made him feel guilty and uncomfortable like he had failed me and I felt so horrible that I had made him feel that way. He finally responded that at the time of mother's day he didn't want to make me feel worse so he just ignored it. He then reminded me that he always got me stuff for mother's day from our Dog and Cat, Lacey and Miss C, and that this year he had planned on getting me a video camera. I had mentioned I wanted to get one so that we could tape the birth of our children and all the wonderful things they would do as they grew up, but after what had happened he thought the gift would just make me more upset and remind me of all the things we would miss out on now. Finally, and most importantly, he said that he DID think I was a mother and was sorry if he hurt my feelings by not acknowledging that. I felt somewhat comforted and understood his reasoning but also sad that I had made him feel guilty and made him feel like he had let me down.
The next day, when I got back from my morning meeting at the BFO with Debra and two other grieving mommies I was surprised. There it was, on the kitchen counter, a big Winnie-the-pooh gift bag and an envelope leaning against it that said Mommy. The card read “Mommy, happy Mothers Day!! Sorry this is late but you know Daddy he’s a bit slow. We love you so much mommy and we are thinking of you. Love Forever, Breanna, Cole, Lacey and Miss C”. I cried so hard when I read the card. It meant so much to me. I was finally validated. I AM a mommy. In the bag he had bought me two little stuffed animals; a little Winnie-the-pooh and a little Eeyore, the same ones we bought for Cole and Breanna to go in their casket. They were the perfect gift and memento of my little angels. I felt bad that my little break down the day before made him get up early, run to the store and get me a gift before I got back from my meeting, just to make me happy but at the same time I felt so lucky to have such a wonderful husband that would do that for me. I realized that he would do anything to make me happy and that I just have to be more open about how I feel so that he knows how to help me. It felt like such a hard subject to bring up but in the end it was easy to talk about and I feel so much better now. And best of all I think I finally have a good idea of something to get for him for father's day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TTC in August?

I was due in August and the bereavement books said that you should wait 6 months before trying to conceive which would be November but I went to see our fertility doc last week (who was shocked to see us, not having known what had happened... the clinic just gets you pregnant and through your first trimester and then ships you off to an OB and seeing as everything was perfect and best case scenario he figured he'd never see us again). Anyhow, he said we could start trying again in August. As soon as he said that I was soooo excited and felt ready!!! He said that because I didn’t go full term, there is no reason medically to wait that long. But what if I'm rushing into trying to get pregnant again too soon... not physically but emotionally. I feel like I've been handling my grief okay but I've been off work and not really seeing anyone. And a get together we went to this weekend was disastrous. Here’s what happened.

We were invited to a potluck-bbq-get together at a friend’s house (Susan and Alan) for another friend’s (Geoff) bday on Saturday. We are very close with all three of them, Susan was my matron of honour at my wedding and Geoff was a groomsman, and the 5 of us always get together but Susan mentioned that other people that went on this trip with Geoff and them would be there too but we didn’t think anything of it and figured it would be fine. We got there early and it was just the 5 of us. Things were normal. Then another couple showed up and I was okay. The girl said we had met once before at her stagette that I apparently went to. We made small talk as we got our potluck items prepared. Then another couple arrived that I did not know and they brought their baby with them. OH MY GOD… I froze with a fake smile on my face for about 2 minutes, not speaking or making eye contact with anyone. But I just couldn’t hold it in and I ran off to the bathroom and tried to pull myself together. As I got out of the bathroom I ran into another girl that just arrived that I had met many times at Susan’s get-togethers. I don’t think she knew about our loss or even that I was pregnant because I had not seen her in months. I tried to make small talk and ask her about the trip they all went on but I just could not concentrate on the conversation. Everyone around us was talking about and passing around the baby and the first girl that arrived was talking about her baby that was being baby sat by her mom because she was sick with a cold. Then another couple I didn’t know walked in the door and that was it. It was too much. I could not take it. I grabbed my purse and my coat and walked out. It was nice out so I thought I’d just take a little walk, collect myself and be fine. But then I thought about my poor husband that I had just left sitting there. Was he just as uncomfortable as I was? How was I going to save him? I took out my cell and called him on his cell. All I said is “I’m outside” and he said “I’ll be right there”. When he caught up to me down the street I felt so stupid that I could not hold it together for some silly get-together. There was just too many people that I didn’t know and I was worried that in making small talk someone would innocently ask me about kids and I would make everyone uncomfortable. Anyhow, Dug said that if I was uncomfortable that Susan would understand if we just left, so we did. When we got home Dug called Susan and apologized for leaving so abruptly, told her where we had left Geoff’s bday gift and that we’d pick up the stuff we left behind the next time we got together.

So now I’m wondering if all this time that I’m just staying home (since we have both been off work since I gave birth) and running errands with just my husband is actually helping me grieve or am I deluding myself into believing that I’m dealing with my loss when all I’m actually doing is hiding out. I mean I don’t feel like I’m hiding out. I have been out of the house, gone shopping at the mall and gone to the grocery store and been to the doctors. But I’m always with my husband, just the two of us. We don’t seem to be doing anything with anyone else. Am I just scared to see other people because I make them sad? Do I just want to TTC as early as possible to fill the void? To have something positive to talk about so that we’re not the depressing couple that everyone has to tip toe around? We could say "it's okay, we're already expecting again and are thrilled" I would love to start in August because then I could start the school year pregnant and not be so depressed. When people (and especially my students) see me for the first time in September and give me that “I’m so sorry sad face” I’ll already know that I’m on my way to having a baby and I won’t be so sad. I kind of did that the last time. I had an ectopic that they got rid of with a methotrexate shot at 8 weeks in the first week of July 2007. At our last fertility attempt in November 2007 I was DESPERATE to get pregnant this time. It would be that last chance for the year and I really wanted to be pregnant in January, when my first pregnancy would have been due. I felt that would not make me so sad about the loss. So at the last minute we did IUI for that extra chance of getting pregnant… and it worked!!! I got pregnant with twins and the due date of the first baby went by without a tear. I was too excited about my new babies which were doing really well and were past the point where I lost the first one.

But I’m also worried that August might be a really hard month for me emotionally because that was the expected due date for my twins. And losing them was so much harder than the first. I actually gave birth to them, held them, have pictures of them, named them and buried them. Their due date can’t possibly go unnoticed like that of the last. Maybe I should wait until September but then I have to deal with the sad faces at school and I’m not getting any younger. I’m already 35 and every month that goes by make my chances of complications higher and higher.

I find myself wishing for what I always wished for when I was younger. I just want to see a snap shot of my life when I am older so that I know that everything will be okay. Show me a picture from the future of me and my husband and our kid(s) in front of our house with our pets with everyone happy, healthy and smiling so that I know that in the end it will all work out. If I had the guarantee that in the end it will all work out then I’ll be okay with whatever sh!t life throws at me along the way. Where’s my time machine? :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Name Plaques Arrived

A couple of days ago (Friday, May 16th) the door bell rang and as I got to the door no one was there. I opened the door to find a brown paper package leaning against the wall on the porch and then looked up and saw a postal attendant walking down my driveway into her truck and drive off. Dug came downstairs to see who was at the door as Lacey was still barking. I picked up the package and turned to Dug. I knew what it was. On Saturday April 12th, excited to be new parents in a few months, we went to the Baby Show at the International Centre near the airport. There we found these amazing custom name plaques made of wood and painted in whatever colours you wanted. Already having found out the genders of our babies and deciding on their names we ordered two; one for our baby boy Cole with a big letter C in navy blue with a black background and a gold star and one for our baby girl Breanna with a big letter B in beautiful pastel colours with two flowers. They were going to be custom made to our specifications and delivered in a few weeks. I thought about them a couple of times when I was in the hospital on bed rest worried that Cole was not going to have enough fluid to develop his lungs and die even if I made it to full term. I thought about what we were going to do with the plaque if that happened and how depressing it would be when the plaques arrived. We loved the name Cole so much I even considered, which now I can’t even believe I ever thought, that we would save it for our next boy that we would name Cole. Well, they had arrived and as I looked at the package I just froze. I didn’t know what to do. I gave the package to Dug and asked if it would be okay with him if we didn’t open it right then. He agreed and put the package in the babies’ room.

That day we went about our errands as usual. Later, my dad came over with dinner and while Dug was putting together the new TV stand we bought that day at Costco I considered bringing down the package and showing my dad what we had bought. But I decided that it might be too upsetting for my dad so I didn’t. That evening, as Dug tucked me into bed, I asked him to bring the package. I wanted to open it. He asked if I was sure and I said “yes, I wanted to be sad.” As we struggled to open the packages I couldn’t believe that the moment I was dreading had arrived. When we finally got the packages opened I was amazed at how well they turned out. They were so beautiful. Dug and I just stared at them in silence and cried. I thought about how I wanted to put the plaques above each of their cribs and how much they would have loved them as they grew up. Cole’s was perfect for a young boy. I imagined that as he got older he would want in on the outside of his bedroom door and then later keep it in a box of old toys and mementos when he went off to university. Breanna’s was so girly looking. I imagined her as she grew up in a frilly girly bedroom with her plaque always above her bed. But none of that was going to happen now. Instead I asked Dug “what are we going to do with these?” He responded that we would keep them in their memory box. I said that Breanna’s was too big and would not fit and Dug said we’ll get a bigger box then. Then Dug took them to the babies’ room and put them on the futon with the rest of their mementos. Eventually I will go through, sort and pack away their mementos but for now they will stay in the room until I’m ready.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

First PBSO Meeting

Well the first meeting yesterday went well. We arrived early (even before the facilitators because I got the time wrong) and were so nervous sitting in this big empty room filled with couches lining the walls not knowing what to expect. When the facilitators arrived they were in a frenzy of activity setting up tables, pulling stuff out of boxes... it was like watching a tv show. Slowly other people started to arrive and the facilitators welcomed them and semi introduced us. In total there were 4 couples including us, a separated lady and the two facilitators (that constantly reminded us that this was not their normal group that they facilitate and that they have been having trouble finding someone to facilitate our group in this area and therefore for now our group will only meet once a month instead of every two weeks). This was the first meeting for all of the couples and the 4th meeting for the single lady.
We started by moving our chairs all around the big tables in the middle. Then one of the facilitators told her story about the son she lost 11 years ago, her involvement with the PBSO (perinatal bereavement services ontario) organizing the annual walk to remember she started in memory of her son. Then she pulled out her memory box and showed us pictures and mementoes she has collected over the years and the connection she made between her lost son and bees. She seemed so well adjusted I envied her.
The single lady went next and told us her story about her "husband" that said he would leave if she continued the pregnancy when they found out the baby had down-syndrome. I felt awful for her as she didn't want to end the pregnancy and seems now to still be having to deal with the grief on her own since they are now separated. I couldn't help but cry. She had brought a memory box that she was still working on that had pictures and notes. It was beautiful.
I was next and can't remember a thing I said although I felt that I was talking for so long. I remember being okay for the most part but at times breaking down into a blubbering mess as I tried to get the words out. My husband said he cried the entire time I was talking but I don't ever recall looking at him or looking at anyone for the matter. I just talked and stared into space, no eye contact with anyone, how weird? For my memento I pulled out my pictures of Cole and Breanna that I keep by my bed side and I talked about not being able to sleep until after the funeral because I needed everything to be done and perfect as it was my only chance to show Breanna and Cole that I was a good mommy and how I would have done anything to take care of them.
Next was a couple who had delivered a past full term seemingly healthy baby boy in April. But then a hours after his birth started seeing signs that something wasn't right and soon found out that the baby had a problem with his bowel/intestines and that there was nothing that could be done to save him. She brought an entire photo album of pictures of the day she had her son. I asked to see it later and it was so sad to see the first pictures where everyone was so happy and the entire family got to hold the baby and then a sudden change in the facial expressions in the photos with everyone holding the baby but tears of sadness in their eyes. The transition from sheer joy to utter devastation is logged in that photo album and it was sooo heartbreaking. They also wrote a beautiful poem that made my husband and I cry.
The next couple did not speak. I could tell she was just too devastated to say anything and didn't even want her partner to say anything on her behalf. I felt so awful for her and wondered how she was going to benefit from group if she did not talk but later during the car ride home my husband reassured me that even though he did not say anything he already felt a benefit from going to group and that she might feel the same as him.
The last couple lost their baby in March and mentioned it had taken them along time to finally decide to come to their first group meeting. The lady told her story about how at 18 weeks she found out the baby had died in her womb 2 days earlier. She explained the details of her car ride home that day and getting ready the next morning to got to the hospital to be induced... taking a shower and looking at her belly knowing that the baby had already past was devastating. I knew how she felt. It was like my 2 weeks in the hospital with Cole's fluid levels being critically low and knowing that even if I made it to full term he probably wouldn't survive because his lungs couldn't develop. She found out at birth that it was a girl and named her Dierdra which she said appropriately meant sorrowful. She showed us her baby's little hat and foot prints from the hospital. She talked about having wished she had a proper camera but on the day of thought the same as me... this is absurd, why would I want a picture of my dead baby? but now realizes that she wishes she had them. I found her and I also very similar in our thoughts about going back to work and seeing people that don't know what happened and getting that awful "I'm so sorry sad face" which will just make us break down and cry.
After the sharing of stories and mementos we did a craft... message in a bottle... where we decorated a little bottle with stickers, ribbons and beads with our babies' names. Funny enough the crafty side of me wasn't really interested in this. I wanted to talk more, try to make connections with the other couples and find out about specific practical things like what should we do with the baby's room? at what point does memento collecting get too obsessive and unhealthy?
Before I knew it it was time to go and I really didn't want to. I thought shouldn't we exchange emails or numbers? There is so much to talk about and share. I can't wait a month to meet again... that is wayyyyy too long. But everyone just left quietly with a general goodbye wave as they walked out the door and that was it. We got in our car and went home. I felt like I just poured my heart out to strangers and they did too and they are going to remain strangers. A month from now we will still be just as uncomfortable around each other and maybe feel embarrassed about how emotional we were at the last meeting but there will be no bond. How could there be? So much will have changed by then. I can understand that maybe in 6 months from now the group only meet once a month, but right now, so early in the process I feel it should be every week for the first month, then every two weeks for the next 4 months and then only once a month once we are more well adjusted.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nervous to Attend Group

I'm a little nervous for my first perinatal bereavement group meeting that my husband and I are attending tomorrow night. I know I'm being silly but I'm getting all anxious and worried about the stupidest things like I'm worried that I might be too nervous to talk ,or worse, so nervous that I won't shut up. What if I don't like these people and I'm not comfortable around them... then where will I go for help. What if I can't handle hearing about their losses because it makes me more sad and start crying uncontrollably. My poor husband is going to have to sit there with me being a blubbering mess.
We were told that the meetings topic for the evening is "mementos" and we are supposed to bring something that reminds us of our babies to talk about. I have no idea what to bring. Should I bring their pictures or the clothes they wore in the hospital or the foot prints and hand prints the hospital made for us. I don't want to look stupid and bring all of it but I don't know what the right thing to bring would be.
I really hope that this group will help me deal with the grief but I am getting so nervous I feel like at the last minute I'm going to say "No, I can't go"

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Beginning

I was carrying twins and everything was going great. Then at almost 21 weeks my water broke. I was in the hospital on bed rest hoping and praying that all would work out but knowing that one of the twins (the boy) was critically low on fluids and would likely not survive even if I was to hold off labour for weeks (preferably months) because his lungs would not be able to properly develop.
But then at 23 weeks (Saturday May 3rd) the unthinkable happened... I went into labour (and didn't even realize it... I thought I had severe constipation and was screaming for a laxative or enema!!) I couple of hours later at 7:49am I gave birth to my first born son... Cole. I could barely comprehend what had happened. I was in shock and tried desperately not to cry hysterically as I felt that would induce my girl. My husband and I held Cole as he sucked his thumb and moved his perfect little fingers. He looked so small and yet so perfect... why couldn't they do anything for him I thought. After two hours of not going into labour again they shipped me off to another hospital in order to better the chances of the second baby (or so we thought) and I left my husband and Cole behind. Eventually, after Cole passed, my husband joined me at the other hospital and I was told that I was back to 4 centimetres.
Things looked good that I may be able to hold off labour for a few more weeks or better yet months. But the next day the cramps came back (nowhere near the excruciating pain with the first so I was not worried) and without even realizing it I was back to 9 centimetres. Eventually at 2:10 am on Sunday May 4th I gave birth to my beautiful little girl Breanna... she had my chin and looked just like me. Again, she looked so perfect but just small but we had discussed it and decided that her life would be horrible if we tried to sustain her. So once again my husband and I held her as she periodically gasped for air and less than 30 minutes later she passed.
The next few days are a blur of being at the hospital and planning the funeral of our two babies that we had all these hopes, dreams and visions of the future for. We dreaded the funeral and reception to follow, but actually found it quite therapeutic having people around us to talk about anything and everything... In fact as the last people left we almost didn't want them to leave. The next day I felt so much better. I had finally slept since I went into labour 5 days earlier. I think I finally could get some rest now that my babies were laid to rest. But since then I feel like I have reverted back to being a blubbering mess rather than moving forward. I have turned borderline OCD cleaning and organizing everything in my house and talking with my husband about our feelings... well mostly my feelings as he seems to have become emotionless but is very supportive in listening to me. We've gone to the store to run some errands and the stupidest things make me break down and cry which is so embarrassing and I feel awful for my husband and anyone around us.
It has now been a week since their passing I don't even know what to do with myself... we've left a message to join a bereavement group but are waiting to here back. Our friends were all really supportive at the funeral but I feel awful calling them and having them feel uncomfortable around us... especially with me on the verge of break down around any corner. I decided that maybe writing a message on here might help me deal with the loneliness and make me feel like I am actually talking to someone that I don't have to worry about their feelings and how my story might make them feel uncomfortable.
This was originally my first post on the Grief & Loss board which I wrote on May 11th at 9pm. I have since decided to keep a blog of my posts and my feelings.