Friday, December 26, 2014

Next Christmas Will Be Better

Christmas is finally over. It used to be a day that I would look forward to for months. I loved the entire Christmas season-starting the day after Thanksgiving and eventually coming to a close on New Years Day. I would be giddy over all the homemaker-y things that I love--baking, decorating, wrapping gifts, and sending Christmas cards. My husband loved Christmas, too. We would always cut down our own tree and then marvel over the gargantuan sized Evergreen tucked tightly into the corner. We would listen to Christmas carols and eat Christmas cookies until we felt sick.

This year was so unbelievably different.

I mostly ignored the fact that Christmas was coming, which was hard to do being that I am a second grade teacher and the #1 conversation topic in a 2nd grade classroom in December is the nightly mischievous antics of each personal elf. Somehow, though, everything I did in my classroom that even remotely revolved around Christmas bounced off my Grinch-style anti-Chrismas outer layer of steel and didn't make me depressed. We made Christmas ornaments for their parent gifts, I read The Polar Express, so obviously we watched the movie, too. I even printed out golden Polar Express tickets to give to each child. And oh how adorable it was when one sweet little blonde asked in the most fragile and awe-struck of 7-year-old voices, "is this for the real Polar Express?!" I was going strong. On the Thursday before break I ignorantly proclaimed to myself, I made it! I made it through 2nd grade Christmas. ... I obviously hadn't reached Friday yet.

Every year we do an all school sing-a-long in the gym. I usually eat. it. up. It really is amazing to hear almost 600 children singing "The Blitzen Boogie." Like I said, this year was so unbelievably different. Silent Night. The words were projected on the screen as we sang, "sleep in Heavenly peace." I had to leave. That was too, too much. After a good 5 minute silent sob in the girl's bathroom and few deep breaths, I made it back to my class just in time for the Penguin Polka. I survived, but it was so hard.

Christmas Eve was difficult, but I hosted it at our house and overall, I enjoyed myself. I love hosting and we played a fun grab bag and guess-which-celebrity-is-on-my-back game. I prepared way too much food, but that's ok. Now I don't have to cook today. Before we ate, we lit a white candle for Charlotte next to our nativity and had a moment of silent prayer. It was beautiful, peaceful, and perfect--just what I needed to get through the rest of the night.

Christmas morning at home was better than I expected. My husband loved his gifts, and that made me happy. We then went to my in-laws for breakfast and presents, and that was very hard. It was another moment that I specifically fantasized about doing with Charlotte. Walking in on Christmas morning, all smiles and joy, everyone fawning over our beautiful baby girl. It wasn't like that. She was missing, and I felt so empty, lonely, and sad. It overwhelmed me for a few minutes, but, thanks to my husband's strength, I pulled it together and was able to make it through the rest of the day.

Dan went to visit her grave at the cemetery and put out a Christmas floral display, but I still wasn't ready. Instead I played with Clyde and his new rope toy in the yard until Dan got home. We spent a few hours at his aunt and uncle's house, but getting cuddled up on the couch together that night was the best part of the day.

Now that Christmas is over I feel a little bit of relief. After coming off our miscarriage last October, we kept telling ourselves "next Christmas will be better." Well, here we are again. And although I am immeasurably more sad and lost this year, I still keep telling myself, "next Christmas will be better."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Some Sick Sense of Twisted Satisfaction

I've been living. Coping. Dealing. Just trying to survive the shittiness that is my life these days. Yes, I have worked my ass off to stay semi-positive--I have a wonderful husband, we will do everything in our power to have living children, I have a great support system, yada yada--but let's be real, my life is really shitty right now.

I'm angry a lot. Angry at everything and everyone for no particular reason. Well, there is actually a really BIG particular reason. My daughter died. Anyways, a really frustrating part of this shittiness is that my anger has no one specific recipient. So, I allow myself an inner dialogue of angry, bitter comments all. day. long. No one else hears them, but they always bring me some sick sense of twisted satisfaction.

Here are a few:

Student: Mrs. Larson, she took my pencil!
Me: Suck it up, kid. Death took my baby.

Coworker: I don't have enough time to do everything they are asking me to do!
Me: I don't have any time with my daughter. Your "problems" make me giggle.

Husband: We'll be okay, babe. I love you.
Me: Stop being so damn positive and logical! It's fucking annoying! But, I know. We will. I love you, too.

Random Citizen: (looking like they're having a bad day)
Me: Please, your day can't be that bad. A bad day is realizing your daughter died inside you. Get your shit together. Oh, crap, are you a bereaved parent? Are you grieving? I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry.

Coworker: These kids just don't care! I'm sick of it.
Me: They're breathing children. They are so freaking precious and you don't even get it. Shut the F up!

Coworker: I hate it this year.
Me: Seriously? Want to hear about my year? I gave birth to my daughter who was already dead.

Coworker: I'm just stressed.
Me: Ha. Stress. You mean like the 9 months of both Heaven and Hell that I'm going to face (hopefully) soon?

I'm starting to see a pattern. Maybe I need to become a hermit at work. Hmmm....

My life is pretty shitty right now. I'm angry, pissed, enraged, what have you. But hey, at least mind reading isn't a thing.


On a side note: I think that reading Gone Girl this week made me realize that I have an inner dialogue just like Nick and Amy Dunne (just not as sadistic, haha). And Oh. My. God. I could not put it down. I loved every second of it...until the last few chapters. If you've read it, you'll understand why I am particularly aggravated. Like, seriously? THAT is the outcome of their sick and twisted story? Ugh.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Grieving in Style

I just have to say how excited I am for being legitimately happy about something...something that makes me excited....something that makes me feel good about myself...and that something is......a new cashmere sweater! (insert ooohs and aaahs here) It's heather grey, super soft, and will look absolutely perfect with a pair of black leggings and tall boots. I'm actually looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning so that I can get dressed and admire myself in the mirror! Woohoo!

It's sad that I am proud of myself for selfishly spending money on clothes that I could be saving for something really important, like a new refrigerator, but when you're grieving, every little accomplishment counts. The fact that I am happy about anything is a major win.

So that is all I have to say today. I'm still sad. I still have a steady stream of tears waiting to fall at any given moment, but DAMN I will look good while I grieve.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Head vs. Heart

Every morning when I wake up, a flood of sadness overtakes me. When I fall asleep at night I am gifted with hours of respite from my grief, but then it all comes rushing back in full force the moment I open my eyes. My broken heart takes full control of my body, reminding me over and over again that it's broken and empty. I just lay under my covers basking in my sorrow. I can't breathe. I can't think. All I can do is feel the weight of my loss.

But then, after a while, my brain finally wakes up. It takes back some of the control and helps me start my day. My brain tells me that yes, I carry a life-shattering sadness, but I am still living. I finally get out of bed. I shower. I get dressed in an outfit that makes me feel good. I do some cleaning, some school work, or go out for a little shopping. I do the things that I used to enjoy because my brain tells me to. My brain helps me keep living.

My brain helps me know that my life will go on, and that I have many happy moments ahead. I know that my grief will become easier to bear. I know that I still wake up each morning in a beautiful home with a lovable dog and a loving husband. I know that we are starting the journey to bring home our next baby. I know that I will enjoy, although be scared out of my damn mind during, my next pregnancy. I know that I had an unbelievable tragedy happen to me, but I am still living life. I know that I brought a beautiful daughter into this world, and that she will always be a beautiful memory and forever piece of my life. I know all of this because my brain tells me so.

I know so much, but I also feel so much, too. My heart allows me to feel all the sadness that I carry because my daughter died. It lets me feel the hurt and the pain of a mother who has no baby to hold, kiss and love on earth. My heart lets me feel anger and rage before logical thinking takes it away. It lets me feel jealousy, too. I don't even know who or what I'm jealous of, but my heart allows it. I get to feel guilt. My brain argues that one big time, but I feel it. I feel an unequivocal love for my daughter. I could only hold her after she was already gone, but I feel love, pride, and joy in the beautiful child my husband and I created. I feel whatever it is that comes my way, and that's because my heart lets me.

I am so glad I have both my brain and my heart working for me, even if they can be opposite forces. I need the logic and the focus and the planning that only my brain can provide, but I also need the feelings and emotions that my heart gives me. I need both.

I need both working together to give me what I need most right now, hope.

I can think and rationalize my way through our TTC process. I can read the statistics and understand the science behind a pregnancy. I can listen to my doctor's advice and updates and understand that another pregnancy is most likely going to be a successful and healthy journey for us. But, the thinking only gets me halfway there. That hope is also fed by the faith and love I feel in my heart. I feel that my God will bless us with more love and happiness. I feel that if I cling to the love I have for Charlotte and my husband that good things will come our way. I have to feel the hope for a brighter future as much as I have to think it.

And so, even though my head and my heart often work against each other, they also work together, too. They give me what I need to have hope for a happy future.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Positive Thinking

I have been so sad. The kind of sad that is so awful that it casts a dark shadow over my entire world. It hurts. My chest constantly feels heavy and tight. Each breath is deep and painful. My arms and legs feel weak. My stomach feels empty. All I want to do is curl up in a ball and go to sleep.

I still joke and smile when I am around people at work, but I think that is just my way of making it through the day without collapsing. The minute I get in my car and head home for the day, all the sadness that has been building up all day comes rushing out in a cascade of tears. It's exhausting. It's sad. I'm sad.

But, I still have my positive thinking. As devastated as I am, I still pride myself on being a hopeful and positive person. The hope doesn't make my sadness go away, but it brings a little balance back into my life. So, here are some positive thoughts that keep me going:

1.) My husband is amazing. He is seriously the best. He's sensitive when he needs to be and a hard-ass when I need that, too. He makes me cry with laughter almost everyday. And, ever since the birth and death of our beautiful daughter, his wisdom has taken my breath away almost everyday, too. I love him more every minute, and he and I are going to have many living, healthy children in the years to come.

2.) My dog is hilarious. He drools and farts, but it's so stinkin' funny. He also watches TV. When he sees any animal, even cartoon, he freaks! When they disappear off the screen he looks behind the TV to see where they went. He makes me smile.

3.) I have a wonderful OB-GYN. She kicks ass. She's sensitive and caring, but also very straightforward and blunt. I trust her, and that is awesome. She will help us bring home a living baby.

4.) We are trying to have another baby. It makes me sad that we are back at square one, all our dreams for Charlotte gone, but I am excited, too. I know that I will have just as much love for our second child as I have for Charlotte. It's pretty neat to know that my heart will grow twice as big, even though it will still hurt just as much.

5.) My mom and dad are the world's most perfect parents. They get me through each day. My in-laws are great. My friends are the best. I have so much love and support around me it's sick. I am truly blessed, even if my life does completely suck right now. (Ok, what happened to positive thinking?)

6.) I am a teacher and I love going to work everyday. I not only love the kids, but I love the work, too. Teaching is my passion, hobby, and job all rolled into one. That is pretty cool.

7.) My house is awesome. We have a beautiful farmhouse that is decorated just the way I like it. It is always very cozy and I am lucky that we have the means to enjoy a beautiful home.

8.) I have an angel baby. I might not get to love her here on earth, but I get to love her in Heaven. I would give anything to have her in my arms, but I am lucky to know the love of a mother for her daughter. Charlotte's birth brought the worst pain and the deepest love I have ever felt. For that, as much as it is painful to say, I am grateful.

9.) I will be a mother to a living baby someday. I will. I will. I will. I will be a mother to a living baby someday.

10.) (repeat mantra as stated in #9)

I'm sad. I hurt like no other. I sometimes want to sleep the day away, but I will stay positive. I will stay hopeful. I will make it through this, missing Charlotte every moment, but I will make it through.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Crumpled Heart

My second graders love to argue, and sometimes their word choices can be very hurtful. So, I sat down with our school social worker and made a plan. She read a story to my class about the words we say that can be hurtful, and we wrote them on a large paper heart on the board. We talked about how those words hurt our hearts, so she took the paper heart off the board and crumpled it into a ball. When she opened it back up, it was still a heart, but it was crumpled. Hurtful words change our hearts forever, they will never be exactly the same.

As I sat back and watched her teach my class this very valuable lesson about the power of words, I realized that I carry a crumpled heart. When my Charlotte died, my heart crumpled, just like the red paper heart in my classroom. It wasn't destroyed, but it was changed forever.

I truly do believe it when people tell me the pain becomes easier to bear as time passes. I believe that my heart will feel joy again. It still beats with promises of hope, allowing me to believe that I will one day be able to say that I am truly happy. But unfortunately, I also know that my heart can never completely return to where it was before Charlotte died. When it's crumpled, it's forever changed. No matter how much joy and happiness I am blessed with in the future, I will forever feel the pain of her passing. I will forever miss every moment we never shared. I will always wish things were different. I will always wish that she was here.

The creases and bumps and lines of my crumpled heart won't be this pronounced and painful forever, but they will never completely disappear either. We taught my second graders that words crumple hearts, and I realized that death crumpled mine. It's a hard pill to swallow knowing that I carry a crumpled heart, but I am slowly learning to accept it.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ugly Snow

The snow came last night. It wasn't a pretty snow, just an ugly, wet, almost rain type snow. The sky went from grey, to dark grey, to black. No pretty sunset. No beautiful clouds. Just darkness falling.

I'm glad it's ugly outside. They say misery likes company, and so I like the company of the miserable weather. It makes me feel like I'm not the only one feeling empty and lonely. The whole world seems to feel blah right now-finally.

The days following Charlotte's birth and death were unbelievably beautiful. Our whole yard was full of vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds on every tree. It was usually about 70 degrees with bright blue skies and soft breezes. If my life hadn't just come to a sudden screeching hault, I would have been on cloud nine-either walking around in my cute fall maternity wear, or blissfully cuddling my new baby girl as I watched the leaves fall outside the window. Instead, I was feeling empty, lonely, and depressed. I was missing my daughter more than life itself and wishing it would rain.

So, I welcome the crappy weather. I like that it's grey all the time. I like that the cold stings my face. I like that finally the world outside is matching my world on the inside. I like the ugly snow.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Bad Badge

I was proud of myself today when I needed groceries and actually resolved to make the trip to Target like a normal functioning adult. Grief is really good at making routine tasks, like going to the best store on the planet, feel like a root canal. So, I was proud of myself for bucking-up and getting myself to the grocery store.

I was standing in the deli line waiting to order some lunch meat. I banned all processed meat the moment I found out I was pregnant, so I figured hey, if I can't have my daughter, at least I can have some roast beef. The jovial man working the deli counter asked what he could get me, and I placed my order. "Only if you smile a little more. You need to smile. It's nice to smile, ya know." That's what he said to me. He told the grieving mother, the mother who lost her first baby 35 days ago, that she needed to smile.

OK, thanks. I'll keep that in mind. Smile more. Got it. I mean, come on! I've returned to work. I can go a few hours straight without breaking down. I only sob every other day or so. I actually laugh and make jokes sometimes. What else does this Target man want from me?! I'm trying to get back to living a "normal" life, but sometimes a smile is just asking a little too much. I so badly wanted to say to him, "You just have no idea the kind of pain I'm feeling right now. You have absolutely no idea." Instead, I let a few tears well up and stood patiently watching him whistle while he worked (literally).

As I stood there waiting, I couldn't help but wonder how many other people in Target at that moment wanted to tell someone "You just have no idea the kind of pain I'm feeling right now. You have absolutely no idea."

People are all around us, living life everyday with stories that we can't even begin to understand. Their stories are hidden deep within them. Pregnancy was a part of my story that everyone saw. My round belly and penguin-like waddle was like a badge of honor that I wore because I was in the Soon-to-Be Mama's Club. The My-Baby-Died Club doesn't have badge that other people can see. People don't know you're in that club. Its an invisible, deep, painful badge that only I know is there. Who else is shopping at Target right now wearing this awful badge?

The Target deli man doesn't know that I am a forever member of the world's worst club. All he can see are the bags under my eyes and the lack of a smile on my face. He meant well by telling me I should smile. And I agree with him that yes, it is nice to smile. But right now, Target man, a smile is just a little too much when I am carrying around this heavy badge for a club I wished I didn't even know existed.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

She Was Here

Sometimes, in the depth of my grief and heartache, it feels like my pregnancy was the world's cruelest joke. As if the entire 9 months of bliss were given to me only to be violently ripped away at the last minute. We were so close to bringing her home. Then this evil joke decided it had run its course, leaving me wounded to the brink of destruction. All the excitement, all the anticipation, all the joy; was it real or just a dream?  How do I make sense of grieving something that never was?

But then I remember, she was here.

She was here at 4am that cold January morning when I half laughed, half cried from the bathroom, shouting for Dan to come to my side. With two pink lines, she was here.

She was here with every kick, squirm, and stretch. Each movement she made brought a warmth to my heart that could only be because she was here.

She was here when we held her in our arms on her birthday. Already gone, but still she was here.

And now, she is here. In my heart, in the profound love I have for my husband, in the hope I have for living children, in my soul. She is here.

My pregnancy wasn't a cruel joke. It was real. It was perfect. It was the happiest time of my life. Even though she is gone, she was here. She is here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

4 (ish) Weeks

Monday she was born. Sunday we went to the hospital. The doctors tell me that she probably passed on Saturday. I was still happy Saturday (I was obviously oblivious to what was happening inside of me). I was still happy Sunday morning. I was a little concerned Sunday mid-day when she wasn't moving. I was getting anxious driving the 50 minutes to the hospital Sunday afternoon. I wanted to be dead Sunday evening. So, given the fact that that my world crumbled slowly over the course of 3 days, its been 4 (ish) weeks of Hell on earth.

My perfect Charlotte Ann was born still on October 6th, 2014 at 38 weeks and 6 days. She was the most beautiful child I have ever laid my eyes on. Obviously I am biased, I mean I am her mother, but she was absolutely beautiful. She had very dark hair and full lips. She had a cute little button of a nose, just like her dad. Actually, everything about her was just like her dad. I love that. I hate that time is taking me away from staring into that perfect face.

Time is a bitch. When you want it to speed up, it just trudges along. When you want it to slow down, it races ahead. But, as bitchy as time is, it always moves on, whether you like it or not.

The past 4 (ish) weeks have done exactly what bitchy time promises; they have moved on. I feel relief to know that I have survived this long without going completely, clinically insane. I feel proud that I have returned to work. I feel guilty that I have had moments (short as they are) where I feel OK. And I feel depressed that everyday I am getting farther away from the moment, the only moment, when I held my daughter.

She is the daughter I spent a lifetime dreaming about. The daughter I spent 9 months cuddling (I count the constant hand on my belly, imagining that I am caressing her back, as cuddling). The daughter I imagined would be my mini-me. The daughter I couldn't wait to see laying on Dan's chest each night on the couch as we had our nightly ritual of watching TV and eating snacks. The daughter I loved with every ounce of my being. Time is taking me away from my daughter.

But, time is also healing the gaping wound of grief that has all but killed me in the past 4 (ish) weeks. I can't say that each day is easier than the day before, but I can say that each day I feel just a little bit stronger. Time is making me stronger. It's also getting me closer to the moment when we bring home her living brother or sister. Time will get us to the happy, living family that Dan and I dream of having. A happy, living family that misses Charlotte more than meager words can express, but a happy family none the less.

4 weeks (ish) isn't a lot of time, but it is some. It's taking me away, but also moving me forward. There is no changing it and no going back. We just have to go with it. It will continue to take me farther and farther from the life I had with her, but the real Charlotte, her heart and soul, will always be with me. Time will never take her from my heart. Take that, bitchy time.