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.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Observed

In my practice I have been known to tell individuals in relationship with others that they must be clear with their expectations.  While I understand the disappointment in not receiving accolades or wooing; if we do not communicate what we need or expect, our loved one will likely fall short of our desires and wishes.  Therein lies the potential for breakdown or tension in relationship with others and I am not immune from this experience.

This year Flynn's birthday and Mother's Day have fallen similarly in the calendar as they did 12 years ago and I have been feeling down in relation to this (or at least that is what I am attributing it to).  Practicing what I suggest to others, two weeks ago I told my beloved that I would really appreciate a Love Letter for Mother's Day in lieu of any Hallmark card or store bought merchandise.  Once his jokes about me not being his mother were out of his system, he told me that he liked the idea and would see what he could do.

It may not seem romantic or sentimental to ask for a love letter but I knew that what I needed right then for my spirit and in relation to him was a reminder of our connection. The relationship that is at the basis of our transformation into parenthood and the foundation for our family.  In being honest with him I was more likely to have my needs and desires met.

When he and I began dating we bonded over our love of the written word. We both took poetic license with our thoughts and emotions and reveled in sharing it with one another.  His letter to me today left me a puddle of tears, feeling loved and knowing that in this life I have someone who sees me. His letter touched on the deeply personal and I needed it to be.  These past few weeks I have felt raw and vulnerable "searching for something" to help me feel rooted.  I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this beautiful act and I wanted to post this passage and say Thank You for loving me.

"When I watch you struggle with your anxiety over them, their difficulties with school and with their ever growing need to make choices for themselves, I'm empowered by your passion and investment into what they will become. I may be a great "Dad" in the moment but I pale in comparison to your attention to detail. Without you by my side and at the helm of this family, I know that we would be lost....veering wildly around in search of some solid ground on which to build a foundation for a strong future. You are our anchor. It sounds unpleasant, but it is the most important requirement in a successful and truly happy family. You need to know that we all love and depend on you, and always will as our lives unfold."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

We Were Not Here

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain." ~Kahlil Gibran

It wasn't the same this year, Flynn's birthday. Even that is hard to say.  I waited for the lead up; the weeks of turmoil and instability. I waited for my body to remember, feeling hollow and burdened and it did not happen the way I had known in the past.  Maybe it was because we left the familiarity of routine and our home, taking a mini vacation to a place of happiness. 


We were not here.  I thought I would be okay with that. Actually I was content with that until today (the day after his birthday) when I realized that a day which I have always devoted to him did not hold the same commitment to Flynn's memory ~ this year.  Sure I did a Facebook post to remind the world of his significance and my grief but that takes one second out of my day.  Consequently I was sent messages of love and friendship throughout the day and I know that he passed through the minds of my community; that is not meaningless.



Flynn is with me every day.  In a fleeting moment when I can see him in my mind's eye or feel the weight of him in my arms or in a memory of carrying him deep in my womb.  His birthday is different than every other day, it is a time when the world slows down, just the way it did for the days and weeks following his death.  I allow for the feelings that whether valid or not still come to me. There is the disappointment and shame in my body's deficiency. The sorrow in only holding him for half an hour before doctors would take me away to save me (not him). The guilt and tragedy in my recovery overlapping with his final heartbeat - I was not there when he died.  Ultimately it always comes back to the feeling of failure in being a mother that could not save her child.  I need his time so that I can give back to myself the other 364 days of joy.

Flynn - On the way home your brothers argued over who you loved more while they discussed how much they loved and missed you.