Little Townhouse on Helmsdale

Five years ago today we closed on our first house.

We knew Joanna was on her way, though we didn’t know it was her specifically. After an early loss a few months before, we were still holding our breaths in hope and anticipation when we signed the papers and took possession of the keys.

Walking into OUR home that night, we had such big dreams, but not just for us, but for this baby. I was already planning the nursery before we moved one thing into the space.

Back in June of this year, as we drove over the Virginia state line, into familiar but distant territory, I cried. For all the things that I miss. For all of the people. For all of the convenience. For all of the memories made in our first seven years of marriage.

But mostly I cried for her; for how I felt closer to her again. For how her home and the hospital she was born were so close to me again. For how that place had brought healing, and friends who’ve walked the same road. For how she was there, how she physically existed there. For how she held my heart there through pregnancy after loss and through bringing home her baby brother into a space that was still hers, too.

That home will forever hold a piece of my heart. I loved it so. I love her so. I miss it. I miss her, painfully, still. How can it be five years already?

I am glad that she is here too, in our hearts. In our memories.

Little Townhouse on Helmsdale, thank you. xo

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A Year Ago Yesterday

A year ago yesterday, we saw a baby – swimming around. Heart beating. Perfectly healthy. Measuring right on track.

A year ago yesterday, we saw Joanna – the first time we could tell she had a cute, little nose. The first time I suspected she was indeed, a she.

A year ago yesterday, we told the world. Our Facebook announcement went live and the “likes” and comments started rolling in.

We were on top of the world.

I see a lot of people on social media posting pictures of their children, who are 1 or 2 or 3 or more. They compare a picture taken today, to a picture taken a year ago yesterday. And they say, “what a difference a year can make.”

True. This year made us parents. Made us loss parents. Gave us a daughter. Took her away. This year was the best we’d ever had, and the worst.

What a difference a year can make.

When Days Are Harder

I think as a loss mom, I expect every day to be hard. Getting out of bed without a baby to take care of is hard. Coming home to a quiet house where your baby should be a happy, giggling 4.5-month-old is hard. Seeing your friends go through pregnancy and have healthy babies when your baby died is hard.

But what I don’t expect are days when things really should be only routinely difficult, yet they turn out to be extremely, surprisingly hard. Miserably, in fact.

On Friday I went to the ob-gyn for my annual check-up. I figured I should go, since the appointment would be fully covered by my insurance as preventive care and I would need the testing completed if we decide to re-visit the reproductive endocrinologist (where the exam would not be covered).

I knew it would be hard visiting the office, it always is. But of course on this particular day, there was a waiting room full of moms-to-be. All of those pregnant bellies, probably most unsuspecting of what could happen, happy to be there and getting to hear their babies’ heartbeats. Not only was the room full, but my doctor was running 20 minutes late. So there I was…sitting for a half hour wishing I were there to hear my baby’s heartbeat too.

When the nurse finally called me back, she recognized me from all of my prenatal appointments.

“Oh, hi! How are you? How’s the baby?” she asked me.

Ummm. The baby? Isn’t that the purpose of a chart? So that you can see before you meet with a patient what is going on with them? This was my third visit to the office since Joanna passed and certainly my file had that note in it.

I wanted to respond kindly to the nurse, but I was so immediately angered by her question that I said, “I guess you didn’t look at my chart – she was stillborn in December.”

She apologized and then I said, “To answer your question, I suppose she is doing much better than either of us.” I mean, Heaven is a better place to be, even if I wish she were here with me instead.

That was maybe a bit snarky, and I might have felt a little bad. But seriously. We shouldn’t have to go through things like this… Haven’t we been through enough?

To top off the harder-than-usual day, one of the lullabies I sang for J was playing as I waited for the doctor in the exam room. I don’t know how I had the strength to get through the experience and the rest of the day without crying, but I did.

When days are harder than I expect them to be, I usually want to close myself up in my room and cry or sleep or at least just be alone. When days are harder than usual, I often find myself wishing I could go back in time – that I could figure out the moment things started to go wrong and change them. When days are harder than I’ve planned for, I try to round up the strength to push through, to tell my story, to live for Joanna, to go on even when it feels impossible.

I’m thankful that those harder days come less often.


Courage isn’t having the strength to go on, it is going on when you don’t have strength. -Napoleon Bonaparte

Holding on to Hope

I said to my friend today that, “Hope is like a double edged sword. You know? It carries you through a lot of tough stuff, but at the same time, when you hold it that closely it really hurts later on.”

I think this is applicable to many areas in life.

Let’s talk relationships. You want to get married or want your marriage to work. You’re holding on to hope that you can make it work, that things will get better, that you’ve finally found the one…or whatever your situation may be. That hope can pull you through the tough times, through waiting for the right person to come along. But when the relationship doesn’t work out, and you’ve held hope so closely, your heart is broken.

Babies. I was holding on to hope that I would get pregnant someday. Then I did. Then only a few days later I wasn’t anymore. But I held on…I hoped that it would happen again. With hope we went to the fertility specialist to see if there was an issue. PCOS, they said. And in the midst of testing and hoping, we found out we were pregnant again. So I pulled hope in a little closer and I said this would be it – this would be our take-home baby. And that little one grew and grew, until she didn’t.

My tight grasp cut me like a knife. Broke me in a million pieces. Pieces I am still cleaning up.

I feel like Joanna was our hope, and I had to let go of her. I had to give her back. I had to leave her alone in that hospital. Pretty much the hardest thing I ever did, maybe the hardest thing I’ll ever do. I left the hospital feeling hopeless, and helpless. And empty.

As we grieved, we knew we wanted to have more children. Somehow, little by little hope came back. I reeled it in when I discovered it was there. And here I am, holding so tightly it burns. And with each passing month, my heart is getting tired of holding. With each new pregnancy announcement, my heart is losing its grip. With each nightmare, hope fades a little. The tighter I try to grasp it, the more it hurts.

It carries me through, but it cuts deep. Today, I want to let go. Let hope go. I don’t want the pain.

But I will grasp it tighter. I will pull it closer. If hope is Joanna, if hope is her sisters and brothers, maybe some pain is worth the holding on.

Hiding

I’ve made a decision. 10 days is too long to be away from home. Nine days even, since today is nine days and I am tired of being away. I’ve been tired for a few days, but I think I hit my breaking point last night. You know what else? It’s too long for Joanna to be away from home too, but somehow she has been gone almost six months.

Now, I am not saying that I’ve had a bad time in California on my business trip. I learned a lot about our new marketing automation platform (yay, Marketo!), which was the goal of the trip, of course. I had a great time being on the same side of the country as the rest of my team. It’s always a little lonely being the only one on the marketing team who is on the East Coast.

I went to Disneyland with my work bestie, took myself to the zoo, hung out with my friend/self-declared career mentor, saw the Golden Gate Bridge (!), had ice cream in Ghirardelli Square, ate at my favorite Mexican restaurant for ladies night… So much fun and so many experiences I am glad to have.

It’s not too long to be away from home because it’s not fun or not educational or not worth it. It’s too long because I just didn’t realize how much interaction I don’t get while at home. What do I mean? I get up. I go to work. I go home. I watch TV. I go to bed. Once in a while we go out to dinner or to the movies or to a concert. But really, I don’t spend much time out and about around people.

Last week, this weekend and this week, I have been out, a lot. We go out for dinners, as I said I went to Disneyland and the zoo and other sightseeing. And never in my life have I felt so surrounded by babies, children and pregnant women. I am sure that they are out there, that if I did more while at home I would run into more, but I don’t. 

So being here and daily dealing with this has been hard for me. I was just about ready to leave, but was glad I was surviving such a long time away from Bill. And then, last night I surprisingly hit my breaking point. We went out to dinner and our waitress walked up with her perfectly round baby bump directly at eye level on my side of the table. Then, the whole restaurant filled up with families with small children.

It was beyond over-stimulation, seeing that bump moving around the floor, hearing those kids laughing, screaming, babbling. Even though I was with my girls, I was just ready to leave. I wanted to hide under the covers and never get out of bed again.

I never knew. Somehow I was misguided, I think. I was under the impression that I was doing really well. That I was handling life without Joanna like a champ. But I’ve been hiding. I’ve been avoiding situations where I might run into someone who would ask me a hard question, or who might not know Joanna died, or where I would see a lot of kids. I just go home and hide in the basement with Heinz and the Hallmark Channel.

People say I am strong and brave. But this realization has made me feel like a coward.

I want to consciously make the decision to expose myself to more. To practice how to survive days like these.  To live bravely, in spite of pain, and in honor of J. 

My friend said this to me this week, and I think it’s really true of the last few days especially. I’m really grateful for friends who know what to say, when to say it, and sense what I need to hear. 

Sometimes things are hard but good at the same time. Stay strong and when it’s hard it’s okay to acknowledge it’s hard. Just remember to keep smelling the flowers too. Which you clearly are! Xo

For Father’s Day

For Mother’s Day I wrote a post meant for all mothers in all stages of their motherhood journey. And so I thought, all fathers should be honored and recognized, no matter what part of their fatherhood journey they are on.

Happy Father’s Day to all men. Whether you have children, want children, have a child on the way, have lost a child, or have an empty nest, Sunday is your day. You have love in your heart for a child(ren) that will be, already is, or was.

Once you become a dad, you’re always a dad. It’s a really special thing to be a dad. You have the privilege of leading a household and raising children to do the right thing, to be caring, to show them and teach them compassion, to show them love and teach them how to love.

Love, to me, is the most important. I learned a lot about love from my dad. He loves my mom with all his heart. He is good to her, he puts her first, he is kind. In turn, he also loves his children and cares for them and supports them in all they do. Watching him love my mom has shown me how a man should love a woman. One of the greatest lessons I learned from him is love. Because I knew what to look for, I have the most amazing husband. I also have the most amazing father for my children.

Since losing J we have found that fathers often get the short end of the stick when it comes to mourning and grieving. People always ask the dads how the moms are doing but they forget that the dads also lost a child. Their hopes and dreams have been dashed. Their hearts broken. Their pain is just as real as the pain of the moms.

So this Father’s Day, remember the bereaved dad. For his burden is heavy: taking care of his wife, assuring her he loves her and will always be with her. Remember him, because he carries his child in his heart, but he loves her just the same as if he were holding her in his arms. Remember him, because though he seems strong, his heart breaks every day.

Be kind to him. He puts on a happy face but he is still sad. Love him, because he is one of the strongest dads as he carries the weight of grief on his shoulders.

I have often heard that because we love deeply, we hurt deeply. No one loves these little lost lives as much as their parents. No one knows, aches, with the hurt as much as them.

If your babies are still with you, hold them close for the dads who can’t cuddle their daughters. If your babies have grown and are away from home, call them and enjoy the sound of their voices for the fathers who can’t laugh with their sons. If your babies are on the way, sing to them and feel them tumbling around in the womb for the dads who will never hold their babies again.

Whatever kind of dad you are, you’re wonderful and you’re someone’s hero. I know Joanna’s dad is both of these things to me, and to J.

We love you! Happy Father’s Day!