The PAL Beast

Pregnancy After Loss. It’s a beast.

If I ever felt like my momma grief was misunderstood, it’s nothing compared to the misunderstandings around pregnancy after loss.

All is not better now. I am not over the moon excited. I still ache for Kohen. There’s still a hole in my family. I’m still broken.

After last week I’d kind of like to crawl in a little hole and emerge with a baby four months from now. That idea of confinement near the end of pregnancy…could I bring that back??

The last five months have been fraught with anxiety, fear, tears, hope, joy, laughter, uncertainty, optimism…confusing right?!? Tell me about it. From one day to the next I have no idea where my brain is going to go or what little thing I’m going to worry about.

I’ve been going to prenatal appointments every two weeks, just so I can listen to baby’s heartbeat and unload on my poor doctor all the emotions of the last two weeks. She has been amazing. Kind, gracious and compassionate…and she knows Kohen’s story inside and out. I am so so thankful that she is part of my team journeying towards bringing this little one into the world.

We talked about labour options. I can’t shake the quiet voice deep deep inside that says “my labour killed Kohen.” And even though I can’t give it credibility, and there is no evidence to support that statement (but none to refute it fully either)…I know deep down I still believe it. And oh, what I wouldn’t give to shut that voice up!! But thinking about labouring again led to many many sleepless nights, intrusive thoughts, nightmares of babies dying. Over and over and over. I just don’t think that’s the way for me to try bring this little one earthside. I don’t want to start life with a new baby deeply traumatized.

Someone said to me “God will give you the strength to get through labour again.” That statement made me so angry. Partly because it joined the chorus of other voices in my head that make me fear and doubt and question myself. Maybe God could give me that strength, but maybe he also gave me a brain to make different decisions this time around. How can anyone know what the best thing is going to be for me and baby? How can I? There are no guarantees. God is not going to give me this baby because my other one died. Everything does not always work out the way we want or hope or dream or pray.

We are not trusting God to give us our hearts desire. We are trusting that he will be there even through the darkest valley of this life. We are trusting that this life is not all there is, that there is a future with no more pain, sorrow, death. It’s just not here.

Every day I wake up and think to myself, I’m still pregnant today! Today baby is moving and kicking! Today is a good day.

I have fleeting thoughts about tomorrow. About diapers. About clothes. About where to put cribs and how to rearrange the house. But it all feels so optimistic. In effort to protect myself I shut those thoughts down and move on. But really. I can’t protect myself. It is far too late for that!!

And to me, this is bravery. Facing the fear and deciding to do it anyways. Facing the fear and continuing on. It might be limping and dragging and fighting, but continuing forward…always forward.

My deepest hope is that as I get closer to bringing this baby home, that I will allow myself to embrace the optimism. That I will get out those newborn clothes and blankets…wash and fold them…again…in anticipation of a baby coming home. That I will set up the bassinet. Again. That I will talk to big brother about the new baby coming home. That I will allow myself to dream and imagine life with two…again.

But so far, I can’t. These thoughts, they drop me to my knees.

My deepest fear is living this nightmare again.

Of leaving the hospital with a broken body and empty arms. Again. Of coming home to a house eagerly expecting a new baby, and putting everything away. Again.

And no, there’s nothing anyone can say, or anyone can do to make this better. This fear is real and valid.

But with the fear, I also have joy. I have been given the beautiful honour of growing another baby…for 23 weeks and 3 days so far!! I am so thankful for this life and the job I’ve been given.

I’d just like to live the dream longer than nine months.

I’d like to skip the nightmare this time.

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The Blue Chair

There’s a blue chair in the corner of my bedroom. I bought it before Kohen was born, planning ahead for nursing him and having things set up for his arrival.

I didn’t get a chance to use it.

But I also didn’t do anything else with it. That blue chair sits in the corner of our bedroom, a reminder of the hope I once held, the baby boy who grew inside of me.

I’m pretty anal about the chair. I don’t let clothes pile on it, but I also don’t use it. The only things allowed on it are some beautiful pillows from my sister…one for Simon and one for Kohen…both depicting our little family of four.

Today, the hope is there again. I’m 22 weeks pregnant with our third child, and I find myself considering the possibilities for the blue chair. I think to myself “I hope. I hope this time I get to use it. I hope my dreams are not crushed this time. I hope I get to keep this baby. I hope this baby gets to come home with me.”

And it seems in equal measures of hope, is fear. Fear that in doing the hardest bravest thing I’ve ever done, to be pregnant again after losing my infant son, that I will live the nightmare again.

Fear. A momma that knows pregnancy does not guarantee a child to raise. A pregnancy that has been a secret as long as possible in attempt to protect my heart from further pain. But man, from day 1 I was way too far down the path of hoping again for any attempts at self preservation to be effective!! A momma reluctant to wear maternity clothes and proudly display my growing belly.

The questions are hard! The responses are so difficult. “Congratulations!!” Well, thanks, but don’t you know we’re not there yet? Don’t you know we lost our son? Much much later than this?? “Are you getting excited??” I am excited and thankful to still be pregnant today, but no, I am not excited for what is to come. The end of this pregnancy is what I fear the most. Will the baby live?? “How are you feeling?” Ummm. I really can’t answer that in casual conversation. Physically, this is my easiest pregnancy yet! Emotionally I’m a wreck.

And then the advice, the shared labour stories that thrust me back into the scene of my greatest pain and trauma, the pregnant friends and new babies that don’t know loss.

Gah.

Only four months to go. The longest four months of my life.

Old Year Reflections

I used to love New Years. New starts, new ioutdeas, new beginnings, new goals.

Now, it’s actually quite painful. Each new year is one further from the last time I held my baby boy. One year further from the reality that he was here, and one more year spent in the reality that he is gone. I want to say, one year closer to seeing him again…but in a life of potentially 90+ years…that’s an awfully long time to wait. And that makes my heart hurt more than anything.

I look back on 2017. My first full year without Kohen.

2016 was Kohen’s year. The year he was conceived, the year I grew him and got to know his bumps and wiggles, and the year I had to say the most painful of goodbyes.

So what was 2017? It was learning. Learning how to be a momma with a forever broken heart in this world. It was surviving. Surviving the catastrophic loss of my beautiful boy and finding a way to live again. It was crying. Crying all the tears and walking through all the pain in attempt to find a way forward. It was trusting. Trusting that even though the world as I knew it no longer made sense, that I could find a way to see beauty and hope again.

And so now, at the end of 2017, I can see how far I’ve come. How I’ve emerged from those dark painful days of shock and trauma. How my mind and heart have healed and found a way forward. How my soul has wrestled and continues to wrestle the big questions and the big ideas.

And now I find myself asking, “What now?”

What lies ahead for me, for us? For these broken hearts that are finding a way. Losing Kohen has taught me about control, that I really have none! We can make plans and hold our hopes and dreams, but without any guarantees. It makes me want to turtle away and make none. Out of fear maybe, self-protection definitely, and maybe a greater appreciation for the present…for a one day at a time kind of approach.

But I do know this, as I move forward in this life I’ve been given…I want to learn more about love. The completely incomprehensible all-forgiving gracious love that God shows us. In all our failings and disappointments, he never withholds and always welcomes us back. Could I learn to do that? Could we all learn to do that? To learn how to forgive, so that the hurts and disappointments we experience at the hands of others don’t steal life from us? That we could claim God’s love as life-giving and hold onto that with everything we have.

Somewhere in there might be a resolution of sorts, maybe just a result of a chance to reflect and appreciate the here and now.

Let’s see what 2018 has in store. The beautiful and the painful. The joy and the sorrow.

For we are promised both.

A second Christmas

My sweet Kohen,

Our second Christmas without you in our arms. I still long for you, I miss you with every fiber of my being. My soul aches to be connected to yours.

This Christmas we have let our love for you flow out of our arms and into the world. When I think of how loving you has chaned me, how you have turned my gaze from my own little world our into the larger one…even with all its hurts and pains…I am so thankful. I can only hope the work that I am doing is worthy of you and your heavenly home.

Last year I couldn’t read the Christmas story. A story about a baby boy arriving healthy and whole and safe into the world. Because it wasn’t your story, and all my momma’s heart could cry was “why me?? why MY baby??”

But Mary lost her son too. Not right away. Not before he would teach and love and challenge the world. But much too soon. Our heavenly Father willingly suffered that loss for the rest of us. I understand that cost, that pain, that sorrow.

And it is because of that loss that I will see you again. And for that my heart rejoices and finds rest.

But I can’t wait. This world is no longer enough. Each Christmas that passes is one closer to holding you in my arms forever, but that feels impossibly far away!!

I love you baby boy, I miss you. I wish you were here stealing your big brothers toys and grabbing ornaments off the tree. Toddling around the house chasing after him. Filling our home with all the love and joy and laughter we’ve been missing for the last 15 months.

I will hold you in my heart and dream of you, and let my love out into the world.

I can’t wait to see what that love will accomplish. Because it’s big. And there’s so much I can’t give you.

Love you for always.

Momma

Missing my little walker

My heart hurts.

My nephew started walking this week. I watched the video with a big grin and love in my heart, watching his toddling steps, his excitement, his accomplishment. And then I started sobbing.

The deep gut wrenching sobs of pain and loss.

My little walker isn’t here. I should be sharing photos and videos of HIS toddling little steps. My momma’s heart bursting with pride and joy, as my baby accomplished what every baby should!

But these are not mine to celebrate. That momma pride isn’t there. I don’t get to see Kohen walk or run or climb or make friends or any of the things.

And I just sob and sob. For what isn’t. What wasn’t. What will never be.

I dropped my big boy off at daycare today, there was a new little boy who was crying for his dad. The daycare worker looked at me and said “it’s his first day back, his mom had a new baby in september.”

And it sucker punched me.

That was me last year, I did that. I had a new baby.

Simon didn’t have to share me with a new baby, he didn’t have to share me with a brother…but he does have to share me with grief. He didn’t have any time off daycare, because I needed the time to myself. To grieve and sob and wail.

I know that it is normal to have babies and life changes to reflect that. I know it is other peoples lives and other peoples stories, and that it’s normal and fine. But as much as I tell myself that, it’s not normal and it’s not fine because it isn’t my life and it isn’t my story. And I want it to be.

With all my heart, I want that other version of the story.

Where Kohen comes home and my arms are full of my two precious boys.

What isn’t. What wasn’t. What will never be.

Loneliness

Grief is isolating. It makes you pull back and withdraw. You are hurting and you want to protect from further hurt. It takes courage to reach out to anyone. Sometimes when you reach out you experience relief from the loneliness, connection. Other times, a knife seems to be driven further, deeper into the pain.

I cannot remember how many times people have said “let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Which has to be the hardest thing for me to do. Maybe the hardest thing for anyone who is grieving to do. Reach out and ask for help. It’s hard for any of us on good days. It’s impossible on the horrible days.

It’s lonely being the grieving person. It’s lonely being the mom who lost her baby. It’s lonely having first hand knowledge that pregnancy does not equal a child to raise. It’s lonely having a child in heaven. It’s lonely having a son who died in such a senseless way.

I struggle to connect with moms of younger children, especially around Kohen’s age. I can’t know their stories without asking, but I feel like I’m in my own category. If I share Kohen with them it often ends the conversation. Maybe they don’t know what to say. Maybe they feel bad for having a healthy child while I’m grieving mine. Maybe they can’t imagine what it would be like. Or maybe they let themselves imagine losing that little bundle of joy in their arms…

And maybe it’s lonely too, trying to find myself in this journey. Trying to learn how the new me fits into the old life. While I’ve changed forever, people and things around me haven’t necessarily. Some parts of the old life are good and welcome, some parts can be left behind as I move forward.

And as I move forward there are new connections made. There are people whose hearts open up for me when I share Kohen. There are beautiful people who go out of their way to love me, care for me and get me outside! There are people who love Kohen in ways that take my breath away and bring me to tears. And for these people I am so so thankful.

I don’t know what this looks like moving forward, will that feeling of loneliness ever fully go away? Maybe not, but maybe there will be enough beauty that it doesn’t matter so much anymore.

The Grief Work Continues

It surprises me often, how long and how painful this journey is.

As time passes, I can claim hope and joy with greater frequency. I can see the beauty and purpose in my days. I can treasure my sons and be thankful for the great love I have for them.

But I can’t separate from the pain.

The pain of losing my precious perfect beautiful son. The trauma of birthing him only to learn he would not survive. The hours of holding his beautiful empty body.

And I carry this pain, not all of it, not all the time, not like it was at the beginning. But still, I carry it.

And in order to move forward, I have to walk THROUGH it. I have to take it down from the corners of my heart where I’ve stashed it. I have to look at it from every angle, feel it, cry it and give it words.

And when I do, it is dark and painful and horrible. Because what happened to Kohen is dark and painful and horrible.

But then, God gives me a picture. After I’ve opened those painful spots up, he shows me what he’s doing in those places.

Green grass sprouting. A sunny day. My little family of four all playing together.

I am so thankful for these new memories, this exchange of pain for hope. That one day we will all be together.

Life Lately

There’s been a lot going on these days.

Joys and sorrows. But the sorrows seem to be piling up. Many many lives lost or taken too early. Children leaving this earth before their parents. My heart knows that pain. That sorrow. Broken families, broken lives, broken hearts. It’s a bit much some days.

Someone shared this song with me by David Crowder called ‘Shadows.’ The lyrics “life is full of light and shadow, o the joy and o the sorrow, o the sorrow.” Sometimes the sorrows seem so much bigger than the joys, or do we somehow take the joys for granted…do we expect life to be full of joy. I think that would be true of myself. Even though I know life isn’t easy, rainbows and sunshine all the time, I really didn’t expect it to be THIS hard. That I would actually struggle to get through my days. That some days getting out of bed would be an accomplishment.

“and yet will he bring dark to light, and yet will he bring dark to light.” It feels like this takes so long, too long. Will I ever feel pure untainted joy again? Will I ever trust completely and rest confidently in hope? Will I feel thankful for the good moments without the pang of sorrow?

“when all seems lost we’ll remember the cost we’re resting in, the shadow of the cross.” Then the perspective that doesn’t come easily. Death does not win. It has not won. It has stolen from me, but not forever.

Happy First Birthday Little Bean

Hey little bean,

Today’s the day…one year since I said the briefest of hello’s…and the most final of goodbye’s. One year since I last held your beautiful body, kissed your cheeks and your little lips. Nuzzled your head and felt your weight.

One year of learning how to live again. One year ago started the journey of “after” where everything else was “before.”  Life is now divided, who I was before losing you and who I am after losing you.

Today was a beautiful day. The sun shone and the air was crisp. We canoed down the river. We made a cake. We went swimming at the pool. We went out for dinner. And always always thought of you.

How I wish this day could have been different. That I held you in my arms and proudly displayed you and your walking skills to all our friends and family. That the cake we made would have been smeared all over your one year old face.

How I wish this wasn’t the first in a lifetime of celebrating birthdays without you. That’s a daunting thought.

And even still. In spite of the tears and the heartache. It was a good day. It is pain and it is joy to celebrate you sweet boy. We sure love you an awful lot, and that’s worth celebrating. I would do it all again to know this love I have for you.

And this love, it didn’t just stay in my arms. It went out around the world through all our friends and family, you were celebrated so well sweet boy. Each and every act of love and kindness was balm to this broken momma’s heart. That your life and our love for you might have purpose and meaning.

One day I hope to have those answers in their fullness. I think that will be the day I am finally reunited with you.

I love you. I hope you know that. I think you must. That each heartbeat that echoed in your ears for nine months was full of love for you. Full of hope and dreams.

One year closer to seeing you again.

I so look forward to that day.

So my love, happy first birthday.

Love momma.

The night before your birthday

Hey baby boy,

It’s the night before your birthday and my mind and heart are full of you. At 11pm one year ago my waters broke…and started the journey that led us to goodbye before hello.

I can’t help but relive those moments, but I do try to let them go. Those moments of my greatest pain, they steal from my great joy of having you. The joy I find in being your momma.

I have invited many family and friends to join us in celebrating your birth day. To reach out to the world around and spread some “Kohen love” to someone else. I asked them to share with me what they have done in your honour. And I am so excited to hear how you are impacting the world precious boy.

I so so wish you were here in my arms. I wish that tomorrow’s birthday celebration included a cake smash by a happy one year old. I wish I was watching you chase after your big brother, rip open presents and generally just enjoy being one. I love you. I miss you.

I will always be proud to be your momma. I will always be thankful for you, thankful that we tried to bring you into our home to raise.

We will never understand why that wasn’t the plan for you or us, but we will trust in God’s great love and his assurance that you are safe in his arms.

I love you baby boy. Happy almost first birthday.