Monday, January 5, 2009

Glow in the Woods - 7x7 January 2009

I really enjoy when Glow in the Woods posts these, and I enjoy reading others' answers even more.

(Cut & paste from GITW along with my answers.)

Join us for a Winter/Holiday/New Year's 7x7, won't you? Here are the questions:

1 | Welcome to 2009. What have you left behind in the year just past? What do you hope to find in the year to come?

Left behind: my 30's, my uterus - which also means my reproductive years, and is quite bittersweet I've found. No more mess and pain to deal with on a somewhat regular basis - but still, it was nice knowing the possibility was there, however not probable (or even a good idea).

Hoping to find in 2009: Me - seriously. I have been wife, mother, subfertile and trying to be those or overcome them for so long, I seem to have lost sight of the real me. I accept that change is not a bad thing - just need to get use to the changes and the older (maybe wiser?) me.

2 | We've just come through the season in which our culture touts cheer and peace and family togetherness rather relentlessly. How did your child's death impact your experience of the "holiday" season, personally or culturally?

My seven losses were spread out over a decade. The first three were one right after the other within a 6-7 month period of time and the last of which fell just weeks before Christmas that year. I was working on some serious depression which also had a negative impact on my physical health. I look at those pictures from that Christmas and I am 20 lbs down from my (then) healthy weight, hair a mess - I doubt I brushed my teeth, wearing my rattiest pajamas and my dh is snapping pictures. One, I am the picture taker - so that right there means something is off. Two, I would never be caught dead for photographic posterity looking like I did that day. I smiled for the camera but my eyes tell a completely different story. I flat out didn't care - didn't care how I looked, didn't care what kind of day we had, I just went through the motions. I am pretty certain that I crawled back into bed after we were finished opening presents.

Christmases since then I have found I prefer a much quieter, more family oriented affair. I don't like the big parties, the big celebration, the massive crowds. I feel much more introverted (which is somewhat atypical for me). I like nice, quiet, cozy and laid back and dislike all the social activities. I pretty much always end up participating in our church Christmas party, and since I sing, I end up getting asked to sing that month quite a bit. Normally, I wouldn't mind it one bit and enjoy it even, but that time of year, I find I just don't want to have to be "on" and would rather be home hibernating.

3 | If you celebrate in any way through December, are there ways you include or acknowledge your lost baby/babies?

I have ornaments on the tree that have special significance to me and represent the members of our family that should have been here and who are not. I have hung ornaments since that very first Christmas, even long before I even gave those babies names. I just really needed them there in some form, because they would have been otherwise. Each lost baby has an ornament specific to them. This year I added angel wings - one for each "angel", so seven and then thirteen snowflakes. For me it was the symbolism - each snowflake is different, no two are alike - just as my children would have been and are.

4 | Through the year are there any holidays, seasons, or parts of what were once cherished rituals that have changed for you because of your child's death?

Well, Mother's Day for one! Though, I think I have kind of always had issues with that one. I hate the commercialism aspect to it and think that shows of appreciation and love should be made on a regular and frequent basis - not just because some card and flower companies say you need to on one specific day. I tell my mother I love her and appreciate her at least once a week over the phone, not just on that one day in May so she can spend the rest of the year wondering . . . ? Also, I just feel there is something less sincere if it's something that you only make a show of on a specific day set aside for making a show of it. Though, that's just me! The Mother's Day before our first child was born I got myself in a snit over not being wished a Happy Mother's Day by my spouse. When he finally asked what I was upset about, I told him, to which he replied "Well, you're not a mother yet." Okay, while this is not a wise thing to say to your wife who is hugely and obscenely 8 months pregnant with a baby that took 18 months of trying and 6 rounds of fertility drugs - in his defense, he was pretty young at the time, and we were both rather naive. This was long before we became acquainted with baby loss. I have had some pretty lousy Mother's Days since then, but other than that first one, it was not due to any expectations I had of a grand show.

5 | Do you do anything to remember your baby/babies' birth and/or death day? Or will you?

The first year anniversary, I usually bought myself some flowers - just for a spot of beauty in my life. The further away I have gotten from those anniversary dates, the easier they are to get through - or at least not as hard as the first ones. Now I try to mark the occasion with an act of kindness. Even if it is just smiling and being kind to the cashier who was just given a hard time by the customer in front of me in line. Just something small, spur of the moment that might brighten someone's day or lighten their burden. The big anniversary dates, or the milestone type dates - those get to me. You look at your family dynamic as it is now and think about a different dynamic that could have been if life had followed a different path. A baby that would be heading off to school, getting baptized, turning 10, becoming a teenager. Most of the time nowadays, I do okay - I have learned to live with the losses, disappointment, frustration and anger I use to deal with in those earlier years. Sometimes though - I think back and I am completely overwhelmed by the enormity of the losses - and it isn't just the loss of a pregnancy itself. We're talking about an entire lifetime and its requisite events that would have been played out had things gone differently.

6 | Is there anything about the winter season (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere right now) that lifts your spirits? Is there anything that especially brings them down?

I like snow, I always have. I love the freshly, fallen, pristine snow - how white and and clean it looks. I love finding tracks - animal, human - proof that someone was there, even if you didn't see them. Yes, I realize the symbolism there and I think that is part of why I really groove on it - proof of the unseen. I find that cold, wintry days have me focusing more inward - curling up with a book and an afghan, feeling more quiet. Perhaps it is a hibernation type instinct I find myself feeling. What I really miss though, is where I grew up - during the winter I would sit by our big picture window all wrapped up and cozy and look out over the valley (we lived on the side of a mountain at 6500 ft) and see snow and mountain peaks and bits of evergreen peaking out. That sight never has lost its thrill for me and in many ways become more and more a treasured memory to me because it is a time I remember feeling at peace and all being right with the world.

7 | During your hardest times, how have you found your way forward?

I slept a lot at first. My first impulse when things get really difficult is usually to head to the safety of my bed and bury myself under the covers. At first it was so I didn't have to be aware - when you're asleep, you feel nothing. Later on in the grieving process, it was to recover strength, sometimes my health. The first bit it is hard to do anything other than just breathe - and even that can be phenomenally difficult to do sometimes. Getting back to a "normal" routine was what helped me feel like I was moving forward again the most.

There was a point between the first three miscarriages and then then next two where I came to realize I had a choice to make - I could allow this terrible thing that happened, and seemed to keep happening, destroy me completely or I could survive and even become something better because of or even in spite of. I knew that it hurt so much only because I cared so much - so stopping the hurt meant I had to stop caring. That wasn't an option. Loving someone else sometimes means making sacrifices - sacrifice by its very definition is not easy, nor is is something you always get to choose the parameters of. Becoming something better, surviving was not easy and it took time, still takes time and effort! Living life after is something that takes practice, you just keep doing it and doing it until you don't have to think about doing it as much.

If you choose to participate in this 7x7, please link up to me in my comments section - I am interested in your thoughts also!


Lynette said...

I could have written these answers myself - they put into words so many of the thoughts and feelings i've had over the years! I wish you much love and happiness in the coming year as you discover your new "Me" - one things for sure- she's a woman of great courage and strength!
lynette x

JamieD said...

Thanks for sharing you 7x7. It is reassuring, coming from someone who is a 'survivor.' I so admire you!

loribeth said...

Great insights as always, Julia! I'm working on my responses...

sweetsalty kate said...

On the very same wavelength for 2009... god, how I just want to be a girl again. Or at last some reasonable facsimile. Thanks so much for sharing, Julia.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is (((Hugs)))

Kelly said...

The statement, "I knew that it hurt so much only because I cared so much - so stopping the hurt meant I had to stop caring. That wasn't an option." I think people want to stop hurting so they think if they stop caring it will get better, however, a woman I met in 2008 taught me differently. She continues to care and although it still hurts, she has decided to make the best of what she has. A tough feat, no doubt.