Sunday, October 26, 2014

Twenty Two and Six

I must admit that sometimes I feel like I observe my life as though it were some kind of social experiment. This pregnancy and the way it has been received has been no exception to my observations but more on that later. 

In a subsequent pregnancy (a term used in my bereaved circles to describe any pregnancy following the death of an infant or child), there tends to be a multitude of messages about grief.  Many times a new pregnancy is met with sentiments that now the bereaved parent can be joyful, move on or stop grieving.  In reality a subsequent pregnancy may be filled with anxiety, fear and even despair.  For me, I remember finding out that we were pregnant with our middlest, 16 months after Flynn had died and after fertility interventions, and my first reaction was "oh shit, what have we done!"  I was absolutely terrified of everything a pregnancy could mean and I did not want to experience the death of a baby again. I wasn't even sure that there was any other possibility for us.  Moreover, where could I even say that out loud??  Everyone around us wanted us to have the joy of another child and although I knew their intentions were built from love and care, at times it felt like that desire came at the expense of Flynn's memory or the grief that would continue in my life as the result of being Flynn's mom. 
As a way to cope with my anxiety during the pregnancy of my middlest I discussed funeral plans with my therapist and what we would do differently in the event that he died instead of coming home with us.  I had more ultrasounds then I care to remember and although the notion to have less would seem to make sense; between doctors appointments I would become convinced that the baby had died in utero and it was just a matter of time before some medical professional would be breaking the news to me.  While many suggested that I try to be rational about the pregnancy and it's likely positive outcome, it was not a helpful way to manage my stress. Experiencing the death of an infant had taught me that not only was I not invincible but much of what I experienced as my life was beyond my control; including my own pregnancy. It would take us weeks after our middlest was born to believe that we were living in reality and not a dream and we would regularly discuss our belief that he might not be real.
Of course that was ten years ago and I would like to say that it gets easier with each subsequent pregnancy but what I have come to find is there are new challenges that stir the anxiety or create fear.  While that may be a case for not having subsequent pregnancies, being a parent and watching your family and children grow is such a gift it tends to overpower the fear in the end.

So Twenty Two and Six.  That is today. Today I am twenty-two weeks and six days pregnant with our fifth child and my third subsequent pregnancy.  It is of significance because as in my other two subsequent pregnancies this is a day I did not see carrying Flynn.  He was born at twenty-two weeks and five days and there was not a Twenty Two and Six.  As in the other pregnancies, I have held my breath and wished for my body to do what it is supposed to do as I have whispered to my child to please stay with me so that I could meet them, alive and crying on their Birth Day.

As for my observations in this pregnancy ~ it has been hard to be met with questions of my intelligence/mental health surrounding my choice to have another pregnancy and child.  Although my anxiety and fears are tough at times, I am so aware of the blessings each of my children have given me and feel so privileged to have this opportunity one more time.  It is not a matter of my intelligence, it is a matter of love.

“When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.”
~Patrick Overton

Friday, September 26, 2014

Another Anniversary

Another year, another anniversary.  How lucky are we to have one another? Of course I can only speak for myself but I think you are  pretty lucky to have me!
Seventeen years equals a multitude of life transitions, such as: Our four apartments (I am calling your parent's basement an apartment) before we transitioned into owning, then it became three houses; five vehicles (not including work vehicles but definitely including that stupid Grand Am). We have survived one another's education - you finished your trade certificate and I finished my culinary apprenticeship, hairstyling school, my undergraduate degree and my Master's (and you call yourself a Jack of All Trades). There have been changes in our jobs, you have had two different jobs but with  a multitude of success that has led you to a career that you love and ummmmmmmm there have been a couple different jobs for me BUT who is counting (just my parents).  There have been fur babies, whom we tested our parental skills on, loving them and of course finding the strength to let them go.  Lastly but of the greatest value, there are the boys. Four beautiful children. They have been the most amazing teachers of love, patience, resilience and of loss. Now in our seventeenth year of marriage we will become parents again, an amazing gift and another adventure.
Seventeen Years married to you. So many joys and adventures, some heartbreaks and sadness but when I reflect back on Seventeen Years, for me it can only equal one thing, Love.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Confronted with A Different Approach

Yesterday I attended a specialist appointment. Like many specialist appointments they took a very thorough medical history.  First a nurse met with me and did an overview of my health history and got my vitals and then a doctor reviewed and expanded upon the initial assessment. In the course of the interview I experienced the medical model in its belief and approach to neonatal death and I had to share it here because all too often bereaved parents are faced with similar ignorance (not necessarily in the medical field, it can happen everywhere).
So this was not the way that I was going to come out with this news but to understand this blog, it is relevant to the dialogue. I am pregnant! Surprise for many. We are so excited and terrified (but that is another blog).
So this was the initial conversation with the nurse:

Nurse: So is this your first pregnancy?

Me: No, it is my fifth.

Nurse: FIFTH! Wow, good for you with all those children at home.

Me:This is my fifth pregnancy and I have three children at home, our second son died.

Nurse: Oh, I am sorry.

The rest of the interview pertained to my health. When I met with the doctor, her bias was much more evident.

Doctor: Has this been a healthy pregnancy?

Me: Yes, but I have had abruptions in three of my pregnancies. My second son was born at 23 weeks and died shortly after.

Doctor: OH, so is that the child that you told my nurse had died? 

Me: Yes

Doctor: Well it was not viable at 23 weeks.

Me: We understood that at the time and we made the tough decision to have him in our community so that we could hold him and keep him until he died.

Doctor: Well I met a child who was born at 26 weeks the other day and they were not healthy.

Me: um.

Doctor: So why would you think it was a good idea to have another child with Chronic Fatigue?

Obviously, the doctor had her opinions which she felt very comfortable expressing. Under some circumstances I do feel very comfortable educating people as I believe that most ignorance is a lack of knowledge (most not all). In this case her viewpoint was complicated by layers of beliefs that I did not have the time or energy to engage with. At the end of the day the person who I need to be comfortable with is me and out of respect and honour to my relationship to my partner as well.
We are looking forward to 2015 when a new Lambert will enter our family where Flynn is remembered and honoured as the valuable Lambert he is.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

No Orchids

This year Flynn's anniversary was different.  We did not recognize it with the same tradition that I have grown accustomed to. Truly I was okay with planning the change in scenery and I enjoyed the time we spent with the boys. If I am being honest I did not miss the moodiness, body aches and extreme fatigue that I normally experience in anticipation of the anniversary. Instead we were eagerly anticipating our escape from daily routines and I knew I could still hold Flynn's memory close and acknowledge him on that day.
In my blog about his anniversary I struggled with the feeling that his birthday was not as comfortable as I wanted or needed it to be. I have come to realize that it was not only the change in scenery or the lack of a time held tradition that made it so different. Moreover it has taken me months to reconcile and recognize that the changes that were made to Flynn's anniversary had a more profound effect on the grief that journeys alongside me.
Every year on May 3rd I purchase blue orchids. They were the flower that showered Flynn's tiny casket and on his anniversary I leave some in the cemetery and I bring five home to represent our family. I place them in the centre of our home, typically the kitchen, where they bloom for a month if not more. They had become a symbol of our grief and consequently marked a period when those around us may extend care and compassion especially if we were less than our optimal selves.  In their own way the bunch of orchids were symbolic of our mourning, while not active any more, still a time that we could give ourselves.
This year, not only were we far away on Flynn's anniversary but there were no orchids. No symbolic representation of our grief that we could meet daily, touch and have loved ones appreciate.  What effect did that have on me? Now, in retrospect, I believe that the lead up that in past years I was so accustomed to became a down swing following this anniversary. The days and weeks that followed May 3rd were filled with fatigue, sadness and periods of depression.  While I found ways to cope and manage these all too familiar feelings it took the guidance and understanding of a friend to help me see the significance of the symbols in my grief. It is with gratitude that I am finally able to write this blog, something that I have struggled to express for months.
So next year? I don't think I am willing or ready to permanently change the tradition surrounding Flynn's anniversary and I will likely look toward familiarity as a form of comfort but I know without a doubt there will be orchids.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

20 Years Today

Today I got re-routed on my way to work.  While I was bitching about the construction on summer streets, I turned right off the main street and knew instantly where I was. One more four-way stop and I would be there.  Not where I intended to be as I was surely going to be late for work but maybe where I was supposed to be even if for the briefest moment.  Beyond the gates lies a place where your name is etched in stone.  I already knew what today was. I have known for weeks that it was coming and I went to bed yesterday aware of what day I would awake to.  Today is twenty years since my life changed forever, the day You died.
Driving slowly past the cemetery I thought about how I might write this blog, if I felt so inclined.  Today was spent in reflection on how meeting you, loving you, knowing that you had died and experiencing your funeral had impacted me but also who I would become as a result.  I decided that putting it to words would help me to honour your memory in a way that feels authentic to me.

Before you I believed that I was invincible, not like superman or some other fictional character but from a place that is based in the residual beliefs of childhood and magical thinking.  In addition to having this amazing ability, I also thought that I would amount to something great - which would definitely be in the area of helping others.  This was the way of the adolescent ego and that is the time that I am speaking of, when you entered my life. The time between childhood and adulthood, where for many who live with the privilege of health, family and modest middle class, it is a time where the good outweighs the bad.
I knew of you before I knew you and so I was aware that you had Cystic Fibrosis. I even did a project on the disease for health class and I had not even met you yet.  The day I did actually meet you, you introduced yourself so assertively and with so much kindness, I liked you instantaneously. In that first conversation you told me about CF as a gesture of transparency and I told you all I had learned about the disease and we fell into an easy friendship.  If I am being honest now, in that first meeting I wanted to save you. I thought I could be the one that would go on to be some sort of Biochemist who in my brilliance could research and cure Cystic Fibrosis (even though I had I dropped out of chemistry a semester earlier).  I was so future-oriented planning the things that we would do together as friends I see now how you helped root me in the present, even before this whole Mindfulness movement, so I could enjoy it there with you ~Thank You.
I don't want to fast forward through the 10 months I got to spend as your friend but I know I could fill 6 blogs talking about that time and I want something different for this one.
June 10, 1994 - you died.  I was devastated.  We were all devastated.  Nothing can  prepare you for the death of someone you love.
I know now that I lost more then you that day; I lost my invincibility, my immortality and my identity.  I was not going to save anyone from death not even myself.  It may seem like an unbearable lesson and for a time it was but it also began to carve out the path for my life.  Admittedly, I was not ready to take that path at the time and it would be years and another death that would finally have me walking my own journey but I am on it now. In my role I support the bereaved as they enter their own journey and I can come from an authentic place with empathy and compassion that I learned because you were my friend.
As in any life that is built from the lessons that death has taught, it is bittersweet.  To have today be just another day and to have you here - well I would have chosen a different path if only it were a choice.
Sheri I remember you always and I know that I have never been alone on my path and that has brought me a tremendous amount of comfort in some of the darkest times.  Miss you ~Until We Meet Again.