Friday, February 26, 2010

What Not to Say

I know I made a similiar post days ago but I found this & think it does a better job at explaining than I did. It mentions stillbirth but really this applies to all families who have lost a newborn.

I know most readers have experienced a loss themselves & do not need to be told these things. I am hoping the friends, family & strangers who read my blog can walk away with some better understanding.

I do not want this post to make people even more afraid of talking to grieving parents so I am compiling a list of what to say & do in the aftermath of a child's death & will have it posted shortly.

What we wish you knew about pregnancy loss: A letter from women to their friends and family

When women experience the loss of a child, one of the first things they discover they have in common is a list of things they wish no one had ever said to them. The lists tend to be remarkably similar. The comments are rarely malicious - just misguided attempts to soothe.

This list was compiled as a way of helping other people understand pregnancy loss. While generated by mothers for mothers, it may also apply similarly to the fathers who have endured this loss. When trying to help a woman who has lost a baby, the best rule of thumb is a matter of manners: don't offer your personal opinion of her life, her choices, her prospects for children. No woman is looking to poll her acquaintances for their opinions on why it happened or how she should cope.

-Don't say, "It's God's Will." Even if we are members of the same congregation, unless you are a cleric and I am seeking your spiritual counseling, please don't presume to tell me what God wants for me.
-Don't say, "It was for the best - there was probably something wrong with your baby." There may have been nothing wrong with the baby at all. Most stillbirths are unexplained deaths or are caused by the health of the mother. If there was something wrong the fact that something was wrong with the baby is what is making me so sad. My poor baby may never have had a chance. Please don't try to comfort me by pointing that out.

-Don't say, "You can always have another one." This baby was never disposable. If had been given the choice between loosing this child or stabbing my eye out with a fork, I would have said, "Where's the fork?" I would have died for this baby, just as you would die for your children.

-Don't say, "Be grateful for the children you have." If your mother died in a terrible wreck and you grieved, would that make you less grateful to have your father?

-Don't say, "Thank God you lost the baby before you really loved it." I loved my child.

-Don't say, "Isn't it time you got over this and moved on?" It's not something I enjoy, being grief-stricken. I wish it had never happened. But it did and it's a part of me forever. The grief will ease on its own time line, not mine - or yours.

-Don't say, "Now you have an angel watching over you." I didn't want her to be my angel. I wanted her to grow up and grow old to enjoy her own children and grandchildren.

-Don't say, "Now your mother/father/grandmother/grandfather/brother/sister is taking care of her." They could have 'taken care of her' just as easily if she had stayed here with us.

-Don't say, "I understand how you feel." Unless you've lost a child very late in pregnancy or later, you really don't understand how I feel.

-Don't tell me horror stories of your neighbor or cousin or mother who had it worse. The last thing I need to hear right now is that it is possible to have this happen six times, or that I could carry until two days before my due-date and labor 20 hours for a dead baby. These stories frighten and horrify me and leave me up at night weeping in despair. Even if they have a happy ending, do not share these stories with me.

-Don't pretend it didn't happen and don't change the subject when I bring it up. If I say, "Before the baby died..." or "when I was pregnant..." don't get scared. If I'm talking about it, it means I want to. Let me. Pretending it didn't happen will only make me feel utterly alone.

- Don't say, "It's not your fault." It may not have been my fault, but it was my responsibility and I failed. The fact that I never stood a chance of succeeding only makes me feel worse. This tiny little being depended upon me to bring him safely into the world and I couldn't do it. I was supposed to care for him for a lifetime, but I couldn't even give him a childhood. I am so angry at my body you just can't imagine.

-Don't say, if this appiles, "Well, you weren't too sure about this baby, anyway." I already feel so guilty about ever having complained about morning sickness, or a child I wasn't prepared for, or another mouth to feed that we couldn't afford. I already fear that this baby died because I didn't take the vitamins, or drank too much coffee, or had alcohol in the first few weeks when I didn't know I was pregnant. I hate myself for any minute that I had reservations about this baby. Being unsure of my pregnancy isn't the same as wanting my child to die - I never would have chosen for this to happen.

-Don't call more than once and don't be angry if the machine is on and I don't return your call. If we're close friends and I am not responding to your attempts to help me, please don't resent that, either. Help me by not needing anything from me for a while.

-DO understand that I may not attend baby showers/christening/birthday parties etc. Please DON'T ask why I can't come.

-Do say, "I am so sorry." That's enough. You don't need to be eloquent. Say it and mean it and it will matter.

-Do say, "You're going to be wonderful parents some day," or "You're wonderful parents and that baby was lucky to have you." We both need to hear that.

-Do say, "I have lit a candle for your baby," or "I have said a prayer for your baby."

-Do send flowers or a kind note - every one I receive makes me feel as though my baby was loved. Don't resent it if I don't respond.

If you're my boss or my co-worker:

-Do recognize that I have suffered a death in my family - not a medical condition.

-Do recognize that in addition to the physical after effects I may experience, I'm going to be grieving for quite some time. Please treat me as you would any person who has endured the tragic death of a loved one - I need time and space.

Please don't bring your baby or toddler into the workplace. If your niece is pregnant, or your daughter just had a baby, please don't share that with me right now. It's not that I can't be happy for anyone else, it's that every smiling, cooing baby, every glowing new mother makes me ache so deep in my heart I can barely stand it. I may look okay to you, but there's a good chance that I'm still crying every day. It may be weeks before I can go a whole hour without thinking about it. You'll know when I'm ready - I'll be the one to say, "Did your daughter have her baby?" or, "How is that precious little boy of yours? I haven't seen him around the office in a while."

Above all, please remember that this is the worst thing that ever happened to me. The word “stillbirth” is small and easy. But my baby's death is monolithic and awful. It's going to take me a while to figure out how to live with it. Bear with me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Favorite Quote About Janessa

You know when you read something & it hits you right in the heart? You get that lump in your throat & your on the verge of tears. That is how I feel each time I read the quote below. I do not know if I am truly convinced this is how it is, but I'd like to think this way of her.

I like to picture her a little girl who is running & playing with other little ones. I hope she is smiling & giggling & having so much fun. I hope there is someone or many people giving her all the love I wanted to as her mommy. I hope she is being a little girl & she is so wrapped up in her new content life & new home that she has little time to look down & see me as the mess I have been the past 9 1/2 months. I hate to think she is looking down & seeing all my tears, my sadness, my guilt & this pain. I do not like who I am & I hate to think that she thinks of this wreck as her mommy.

Maybe I am all wrong. Maybe she knows everything she needs to know already & she understands this all much more than I do. I really don't understand this at all.

I also like to think of her as a little girl because when I get to where she is I do not want to of missed out on her that way. I remember being told at some point growing up that everyone who goes to heaven becomes the same age. I think I was told it was 30 years old. I have no idea where I heard this or how much merit I should even put into that thought but it has always stuck with me. I hope its not that way. I want my little girl even if I have to wait my entire life to see her again...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Don't Let Them Say

I have found so much comfort in poems & quotes over the past 9 1/2 months. They speak the words that sometimes I cannot. They say the things I have had a hard time articulating. The poem at the end of this post is so very true.

I believe that people find it "easier" to dismiss the death of a stillborn baby. They seem to think that because that child never breathed our air that they never really existed. Janessa did not have to take a breath of our air for her loss to be considered a death. She was very much alive. She was very much loved. She was a part of our family & now she is missed beyond measure.

I think the death of a baby is very hard for people to acknowledge because of how sad it is. No one wants to speak of things that make them feel uncomfortable. They don't want to accept that these things do anyone. The problem with that mindset is the families who experience such a tragic loss & unbearable pain are exposed to even more pain by the way society treats the death of their child.

Some losses are often dismissed and diminished to words like "There must of been something wrong with the baby." Janessa was perfect in every way. A plaenta abruption stole her from
us for reasons they can only guess at. But even if there was something wrong with our daughter our love for her would not have changed.

"God must of needed an another angel". That is another one I have heard a million times. As a parent it is hard to believe anyone needed my child more than we did. I want her here with us not anywhere else. It is unnatural for a newborn to be taken from a mother's arms never to return.

"God doesn't make mistakes." This doesn't make us feel better. It is hard to understand why our child died. I do not beleive God willed this to happen & wanted us to experience such pain.

"You can have another one." I have heard this more than I could count. Another baby will never replace our daughter nor take any of the pain away. Things will not suddenly become ok when & IF we have another child. For some women getting pregnant is not easy. Some couples lost the baby they had been trying to have for many years. Some women like myself will have a high risk pregnancy next time with absolutely no guarantees of a healthy baby to take home. This one bothers me the most. It dimishes the existence of my daughter & what she means to us.

"Good thing they didn't get to 'know' their child".  I would give anything to have my daughter here with me for even just a minute. Our loss is not less painful because she didn't open her eyes. We held her in our arms, we kissed her lips. She was real. We had hopes, dreams & a whole life planned out for her & us as a family. All we wanted to do was to get to know her.

I am sure there are plenty more but these have been the ones that I have heard personally.

I know that most people mean well & are not maliciously saying these things to hurt us or any grieiving family. They are trying to give what little comfort they think those words will bring. That is the point of this post. I want nothing more than to bring a little more awareneness to the reality of the pain we feel. Maybe I can spare someone that sting from hearing those things told to them.

Baby Angel

Don't let them say I wasn't born,
That something stopped my heart,
I felt each tender squeeze you gave,
I've loved you from the start.

Although my body you can't hold,
It doesn't mean I'm gone,
This world was worthy, not, of me,
God chose that I move on.

I know the pain that drowns your soul,
What you are forced to face,
You have my word, I'll fill your arms,
Someday we will embrace.

You'll hear that it was "meant to be
God doesn't make mistakes",
But that won't soften your worst blow,
Or make your hearts not ache.

There'll come a time, I promise you,
When you will hold my hand,
Stroke my face and kiss my lips,
And then you'll understand.

Although I've never breathed your air,
Or gazed into your eyes,
That doesn't mean I never "was"
An angel never dies...

~Author Unknown

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dead Baby Pictures

I have finally brought myself to writing this post. I have thought about doing this for almost 9 months now since the first time I decided to upload Janessa’s picture to Myspace in my blog there announcing her death to everyone.

I am sure as people read it & then scrolled down to see her picture of her peacefully sleeping some thought “Did she really just put up a picture of her dead baby?’ Don’t feel bad..really..don’t. I thought the same thing to myself after I published the blog. I never thought I would find myself in this position.

You see you can never fully understand why unless you have walked in a grieving parent's shoes.

In the hospital we realized we decided to take some pictures. At first, we were torn. Neither of us had ever thought we'd be faced with this decision. I never thought I would not have the opportunity to ever have a picture of my daughter alive. We knew we were going to need those pictures to remember her but it was hard at first to be comfortable with the idea.

The nurse came in with her camera to take a few pics. She didn’t really tell us how to sit, just snapped two pics of my husband & I with Janessa. We told her our camera was on the way so she didn’t take anymore. We took a handful of pictures on our camera, but not enough. We could have nevr taken enough. Before we left the hospital they had printed the two pics. They are horribly colored so I had to turn them into black & white digital images. I truly wish they would of called Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. It is a nationwide association of volunteer photographers that donate their time to come to the hospital & take pictures when a baby dies. They do a beautiful job.

We oursleves only took a handful a pictures. We just had not adjusted to the fact of taking pictures after someone had died. I regret that so very much. I wish we had taken so many more. I tried to memorize every single inch of her. The state of mind I was in did not allow me to retain it all. We didn't even think to take a picture of her without her hat on. She had beautiful dark brown hair just like her big brother did. My biggest fear is I’ll forget the features I do remember. I wish I had more pictures to look back on.

Please understand that we do not have the luxury of ever having a picture of her while she was alive. I do not get to display each new photo of her as she grows like I do of our son. She is never going to grow up. The pictures we have of her is all we will ever have. She is still our daughter & we love her as much as our living son.

Most "angel moms" or "babyloss moms" that I have met feel the same. They proudly show the pictures of their beautiful angels. There are a handful who choose not too. We all respect each other’s choices. Everyone deals with situations in their own way.

I would’ve told you before losing Janessa that I would never of showed a picture of my deceased child. I’ll admit to that. I also never thought I would lose a child. I also had NO IDEA what I was talking about.

You see when you lose a baby to stillbirth or shortley after birth people can tend to make you feel like your child never existed. They may acknowledge the loss once but then never again. I assume and believe this is because thinking about babies dying is painful & unpleasant to think about. They don't want to think that those things happen. But they do. Every day. It happens to families of every race, country & economic class. Each year in the U.S. ALONE there are over 26,000 stillbirths each year.

Sometimes when we mention our child's name the look of shock & horror on the surrounding people's faces makes us feel like no one wants to hear about our sweet little baby. We learn quickly who we can talk about our children with & who we cannot. The pictures reinforce that our child did exist.

Although I have escaped hurtful comments, I have read many stories of parents who have been attacked by others for their children’s photos. I have read bulletin boards on the discussion of “dead baby pictures” & they have appalled me. I realize that they get the luxury of not walking our path. They get the luxury of only trying to imagine what they would do. They don’t have to live it.  They do not know how lucky they are to still be able to stand there & judge grieving parents actions from the outside.

People who know me know I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I am pretty much an open book. This has shown the most through the loss of my daughter. I share my grief & pain in hoping to help someone else & spread awareness about this reality that I live everyday.

So if any of you non angel parents reading this walk away with some lessons from our grief, let this be one of them. Unless you have been in a situation never let yourself believe you know what you would & would not do. As much as you think you know yourself or what your actions would be…you don’t have a clue. And I am grateful you don't.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

9 months later on Valentine's Day

Hope everyone enjoyed the day today & those who are in a relationship were spoiled.

Yesterday I received two gifts from fellow angel moms for Janessa in honor of Valentine’s Day.

I had a pretty good day today. I woke up this morning after being sick on & off for the last 2 weeks, feeling pretty good. Relaxed for awhile & then made my husband & son some heart shaped pancakes which came out especially yummy. My son keeps telling me “Mom you make the best food”, cute.

My Mom came over later in the day to watch our son & we headed out on our date. My husband brought me to my favorite restaurant for dinner & then to get my nails done! I have been complaining about them enough lately I guess. Afterwards we went to the movies. We watched Dear John & I know it took every fiber of his being to go watch that movie. I enjoyed it. We had a good time.

I have not spoken alot about this amazing man I married so sometime in the near future I think he is owed a dedicated post ;)

Earlier in the day my husband went to buy my Mom some flowers for Valentines’s Day for all she does for us. He also went to Janessa’s grave & brought her this.

Today marks 9 months since we said goodbye. I cannot believe how the time is just flying by. For the past week I have been thinking how this “mile marker” was approaching. Has it really been this long?

I did this up for her. I love to do these things in memory of feels good.

The one year mark is quickly approaching. Her memorial service plans have started. It brings me peace to think of doing it for her but at the same time it is also overwhelming. I never in my wildest thoughts would ever believe I would be planning a memorial service for my child. So many emotions…

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ain't No Sunshine When Shes Gone

Ever since we lost Janessa back in May everything has seemed so gray. So dull. So empty.

I have always been drawn to nature. I prefer nature scenes in art over every other genre. I love being outside. I love the smell of fresh cut grass, the smell of the first few spring days, flowers, the ocean, wet autumn leaves, bbq smells in the summer, the smoke from a summer evenings fire pit. Those smells gave me a sense of “home” filled with memories of childhood past.

Nothing is as it was. Its just there. Colors are still not as bright. Smells are not as sweet.

I wonder if the “coldness” I feel will ever wear off completely. I miss the joy I always found in the small things in life. Now I struggle to find joy in each thing I do. I sometimes find it but it never fills me like it once did. I wonder if it ever will again.

I miss this sweet innocent blissfully naive joy:

I used to feel a great sense of peace when viewing a scenic view either in person or image. A sense of wonder & calmness in my soul.

I remember in the first months after losing Janessa…when my appetite had finally returned how food did not have any taste. I ate just to eat because I knew I had to.

The summer flew by without any appreciation of the weather. We drove to the beach a few times (or was it once?) & I felt…nothing.

I remember asking someone each day what the temp was like. Not that I didn’t have the windows open or I didn’t leave my house…just that I couldn’t feel it. I was so numb. Emotionally & physically. I never once complained about the heat..I never noticed it.

Autumn has always been my favorite time of the year. I even had an autumn themed wedding. This year I never noticed the changing leaves or any of the signature smells of autumn.

Winter has been very depressing. I love New England. I am a New England girl at heart. I hate the cold. Its getting old…

I struggle to appreciate the glisten of freshly fallen snow. A scene that would normally turn me back into an elementary student waking up on a snow day.

I force myself to take notice of these things. I do so because I see Janessa in them. She is in the beauty that surrounds me. I feel her around me at times.

I stop & try to appreciate it all because I want to still be able to see the beauty that is left in this world for me. I want to live now for the both of us. She will never get to pick up a flower & put it to her little nose & smell its fresh scent. I will do it for her. And in those moments her sweet little face will enter my mind & we will share a moment together in the only sense we can.

As long as I live I will look at this world for both of us.
As long as I live I will laugh with the birds,
I will sing with the flowers, I will pray to the stars,
for both of us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Waterfall Angels

A couple days ago I recieved an email from Lisa over at Waterfall Angels. Lisa lost her son Jasper at 6 1/2 months pregnant due to pre-eclampsia & HEELP. He was born on 3/4/09 & passed on 3/6/09. She created Waterfall Angels to give back to fellow angel moms & help keep Jasper's memory alive.

She thought of Janessa & took time out of her life to take & send me some pictures.

She takes them at a state park in Florida.

When I opened the email I was in tears. I did not request them so it came as a wonderful surprise to my day. A welcome & much needed one. Thank you Lisa! When people think of Janessa & do special things it brings me a few moments of comfort & healing. I know she understands this herself.

If you would like some done pop on over.

Waterfall Angels

Check out my Etsy Shop!