Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear Anonymous,


Dear Anonymous,

Fetus.
I hate the word.
Something about hearing it or seeing it makes my skin crawl. And like most things from that night back in September 2003, I completely understand why I feel that way and why I feel that way still...

When I was in that hospital (39 weeks pregnant) waiting to get my labor induced and they couldn't find heart tones on my babies, I thought nothing of it. I could feel kicks and by then I knew how cramped it probably was in there for my babies. I had had an ultrasound a few days earlier and all was well. Still, heart tones couldn't be found so that 'on-call doctor' (who changed my life in more ways than he'll ever know) brought in an ultra-sound machine.

He put it on my stomach and we all saw the picture.
I knew immediately what was wrong. That flicker from the heartbeat was gone. While I don't know if the magnitude of that picture set in at that precise moment, I do know that it registered with me... My baby is dead and has no heartbeat. He went to the other side of my stomach and same picture. Perhaps in a bit of a fog, or shock, or denial or perhaps all three~ What he said next is something I will NEVER forget. But it wasn't the message he was trying to communicate that struck me as much as his word choice.

"I am sorry, but it appears your fetuses are dead."

I did not hear his condolence or even the word "dead"~what I think screamed at me most was the word 'fetus,' and to this day I will never forget that feeling or that look on his face (or the faces of those I loved that were in that room).

I understand that as a doctor there are different stages in a child's development... embryo... fetus... but while I (as an educator and an early childhood educator at that) have had many classes about childhood development and those different stages, NOT ONCE in my pregnancy did I ever think I was having an embryo... or a fetus... Every time I looked at my stomach (even before the outside world could see) I knew that I was having a BABY!

There has been a lot of talk with the Duggars' recent announcement of her "miscarriage" (another word I hate) specifically regarding the pictures that were taken and the memorial (My thoughts on all that will probably come in another post soon). In one article that I read, an anonymous commenter was against the pictures and while she (or he) had other things that certainly shocked me, when I read 'fetus'... again my head went back to that night and that moment...

That damn word again...
That word that still manages to steal my breath.
That word that somehow means 'less than'.
"Less than" human.
"Less than" a child.

Had my son at six pounds 11 oz (the largest child I ever delivered) taken one little breath, he would have gone from being a fetus to a child and that makes me sick. To me he was more than that... more than some tissues and bone which to me is what I think of when I hear that dreaded word and even when my children were just little sparks inside of me, I knew then that they were bigger than that. They had purpose and they were "more than" anything I could ever imagine (and continue to be that... more than just a child even... to me... the mother...).

My "fetus" has taught me so much in this lifetime.
Perhaps he can teach you something too, "anonymous".

(Ah... exhale... I feel better now... Thanks for allowing me to pause for a moment~ and allowing me a little rant of sorts.)

Peace,
L

Sunday, December 4, 2011

December Hurts.

"I just can't help but think that you look up at your mantle and think, 'There should be one more stocking up there...'"

That is what she said to me.

It was my first week back to work after delivering the boys. I had decided to come back to teach one week before the holidays to 'ease' my way back to the 'normalcy' of life... My life teaching children... The truth was I no longer knew normalcy~ the normalcy I had known had changed~ shifted~ disappeared.

The comment was rude. It caught me off guard and it was said as I was surrounded by second graders getting ready to start a school day. To say that it made it impossible to focus on my job would have been an understatement and yet somehow I managed. I went through the motions. I survived. Somehow we all survive.

"Laura, you are so strong."

How many times I have heard that... but the truth is~ what choice did I have? In the end I woke up each day, I breathed out and I breathed in and that world that I had thought had stopped kept spinning while my life as I had known it had stopped.

But it was the 'holidays'
And there was one less stocking upon my mantle.

What she said hurt and at the same time it validated me too. She knew that I was hurting and the acknowledgement (albeit strange) was also a comfort. I did look at my mantle and think it looked amiss. I had dreamed for 39 weeks that Christmas would contain four stockings and yet there were three~ I had dreamed of seeing little babes dressed in matching jammies... but when I opened my eyes, I didn't. And that hurt.

It doesn't matter if you lost your baby on January 1st, or December 26th, that first Christmas without your baby cuts and it feels as if it was yesterday~ as if yesterday you held him in your arms, closed your eyes and kissed him goodbye~ or perhaps only kissed that dream~ that dream of that 'first Christmas'~ goodbye.

It doesn't matter if your baby lived years, months in your womb or was just a spark. It hurts. Christmas is a child's holiday... it doesn't matter it's roots or the 'reason for the season', it is the time where children's eyes are wide, and the whole world seems to slow and have a magical glow about it... and when it doesn't... it hurts.

December hurts.

The truth was he had no stocking, but to me he was all I could think about. The elephant in the room that nobody talked about. I needed something. But what? I didn't know. My husband and I were out shopping, determined to get up, breathe, live. We found an angel. It sparkled and was beautiful and reminded me of my sweet one who was amongst the real angels.

It's been 9 Christmases.
And still I look at that mantle and wonder....
And that angel and sigh...

Andrew has more ornaments than our living children and they came from you. My friends. People who saw an ornament with his name, and angel, a letter (A), a star. Friends who had no words but wanted to do something. And as my living children placed them upon the tree I remembered where I was when I opened those ornaments, what it meant to me as I saw them and how each one seemed to heal my broken heart~ pick up one piece and try to glue its jagged pieces back together.

This year as my children hung them on the tree they said, "This one is for Andrew... And this one is for my sister..." and I sat and thought how lovely that they remember... how sad that they have to know.

And so I pause and think and remember how hard that first Christmas was~ how I never dreamt I would ever survive it... and here I am 9 Christmases later. The world has kept spinning and still his angel is there, watching over it all... and somehow I did. We did it.
Survived it.
Survived it without him.
Andrew.
Without her.
E.

Thank you Andrew.
Thank you E.
Thank you to all who remembered and remember still...
Thinking of your angels this holiday season and thinking of YOU.
I know others are too~ I just pray they let you know
Somehow.
In their own way.
And though it will never heal your broken heart, I hope you can see it for what it is, a medicine. A caring. A community. An attempt.
To show you love.

December hurts.
But you're not alone.
You never have been...
You never will be...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Those Shoes

I've written about this before... but I'm writing about it again...

Sometimes people make you think differently.
Sometimes circumstances make you see differently.
I wonder if these words may make you act differently.

Before I say what is on my heart at the moment, I need to say that clearly I believe that life begins at the moment of conception. My 10 week E (being a child I still think about and wonder about and love), I think makes that obvious.

BUT~
I have learned to sit. Sit and listen.
And I hope you will too... to this.

Last night we had a monthly support group meeting at the hospital. I was over an hour late because of work, but having been in contact with a few new families, I wanted to be there for them. I came in during the middle of a new member's story (that I hadn't heard from) and while I didn't get all the details, I was able to put together pieces. The baby would die- there was no misdiagnosis- no hope. Health care in this country is horrible and expensive and it would become more expensive still. Her baby would die. She ended the pregnancy. From what I could gather this did not happen in a hospital but in a clinic and clearly things had gone wrong... very wrong... and her experience made an already horrible situation, worse. A woman who had wanted nothing more than that child she had prayed for, had lost that child. I know that feeling. And I pray that you don't.

As I drove home later that night, I began to think about that... Abortion. That dreaded "A" word that I see on bumper stickers and fliers. That word that is thrown around by politicians and written on signs held by Christians (and yes I am a Christian). A word that is black and white. But to me... it's not.

I had an abortion.

If you look at my medical records, that is what they say. I chose to have "an abortion" after we lost E. Yes. E was gone and there was absolutely no heartbeat- but I needed it done. I needed to close that piece and move forward (albeit not forgetting). Because I have insurance, I was able to have this done at my hospital, surrounded by a caring doctor and nurses I know and love. This horrible thing, losing a child (and for me 'finishing' it with my D & C aka abortion) was something that in that moment I needed. I was fragile, I was breaking, I had that choice before me, and I made it. And now 3 years later, I still know it was the right one for me.

No one said anything to me about it, but I've seen my records and that is what they say: four live births. 1 still birth. 1 abortion.

Now you may say that my 'abortion' was different. My baby was dead. That is black and white.
And perhaps you are right...

But then I think of her. And while I have met others who have made this decision based on the information they are given, I still think of her and I have written about her here before. A woman I met a few years back now. She had wanted nothing more than to have a baby at home. After years of fertility treatments, she carried a baby she knew would have a syndrome, but a baby she wanted more than the world. She had read up, prepared and was thrilled to soon be bringing home a baby that she so wanted. She carried him past his due date, had a horrible delivery and he was born still. Horrible. Sad. Devastating.

After more years of trying she finally became pregnant again- finally to have a child at home. But as she went to that 20 week ultrasound, she learned the worst. Her baby had more than a syndrome. There was no brain. Her baby would die shortly after birth. Like the absence of that heartbeat this is something on an ultrasound that you cannot mistake. Having done this once, buried one child, she didn't feel she could do it again- go that long- labor- knowing your baby would be dead. And so she made that choice and ended her pregnancy.

What would I have done?
I don't know.
And I'm thankful that I never had to walk in those shoes or face that decision.

But what I do know is that she lost friends. She lost her church. She lost her baby. ~A baby that (despite having a heartbeat) she lost that day when she saw that ultrasound and learned that diagnosis. She lost her baby in that room. She lost that baby in that clinic. And she loses that baby every time she sees a baby- Every time that date comes around on the calendar- And every time she hears you say that she shouldn't have had that choice to make because it was wrong...

I sometimes think that we are so quick to judge. That one word becomes all or nothing, yes or no, black or white. We don't pause to think that there is a story there. A mother there. Someone who was faced with a decision that they didn't make lightly... or easily... but that they made.

And so for this reason, though I believe that life begins at conception, you will never see me hold up a sign, or place a bumper sticker on my car saying that because those words (though true) hurt people without meaning to. They certainly don't help them. The same way you would never know by looking at my family that I have two angels in heaven that I think of every- single- day... You don't know who walks around with the weight of a choice that was hard to make. A choice that didn't feel like a choice at all but something that they needed to do~ to survive. And while sometimes seeing twins may rip that scab right off my broken heart~ I imagine your words can have that same affect on someone and you may have no idea.

I remember that moment in the room hours after delivery. Holding Andrew. He was no longer that pink little sleeping babe I had delivered and I knew I needed him gone. He had to leave. Now. In order for me to survive. I called the nurse. Said it was time. Peeled back the hat on his sweet little head and kissed him for the last time. I turned my head as she took him from the room. I couldn't watch him leave- Though it was I who had made the call to have him taken from me.

I wasn't strong enough to keep my son a moment more.
Don't blame me for that.
Don't blame them for that.

You haven't walked those shoes.
And neither have I.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Who I am becoming.

Right now I am thinking about that place I once lived... somewhere in the middle of despair and sadness, anger and exhaustion. I remember being stuck. Not knowing where to go. What to say. How to feel. At the time I felt like I was the only one who lived there- it wasn't until I left that I realized how many people were actually there (and unable to leave).

It was a hard place to leave because despite its name, it was a comfort to me. Feeling pain meant feeling him. Hurting meant remembering. Crying meant loving. I stayed in that place for months until one day I left. I didn't cry that day~ and that made me cry.

Eventually I moved away and began traveling. I didn't stay in one place too long- sometimes happy- sometimes sad- but eventually I found joy again and it felt good so I decided to stay longer. Still sometimes I'd go visit my old stomping ground, I needed to. It felt like 'home'. I know that my friends and family worry when I go back, but I want them to know that it is OK. I will not be staying long. I no longer find it to be a good 'home' for me.

I think sometimes going back there- to those raw feelings can be good. Remembering~ feeling those things can make you feel closer... closer to the ones who left~ but I do think that there is a danger in staying there too long. Living amongst all those feelings you can start to lose yourself. Start to forget. Lose sight of that person you were before tragedy knocked on your doorstep and stole you away. Lose sight of that person they would want you to become.

When you stay there too long you forget what sunshine feels like and nothing seems to matter~ and those people who complain can send you deeper into despair so for today I ask you to... try.

Be thankful.

I am thankful for my mortgage bill.
I have a house to live in.

I am thankful for the laundry that never gets done.
I have clothes to keep me warm.

I am thankful for my tired feet.
I have a healthy body that can walk miles.

I am thankful for the dishes in my sink.
I have food on my table.

I am thankful for taxes.
I have police and firefighters to protect me.

I am thankful for my dented car.
I have a way to get from here to there.

I am thankful for my headache.
I have 23 first graders who teach me something everyday.

I am thankful for my leaves that need to be raked.
I have a yard full of beautiful trees.

I am thankful for my loud children.
I have loud children.

I am thankful for my angels.
They have reminded me once again to pause, remember where I've been, where I am and where I'm going. Without them, I wouldn't be me... and I like who I am. Who I am becoming.

And I think that they look down
And like me too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In a good place... Sometimes...

Today I was sitting at my daughter's dance class listening to the mom's talk (as I often do). I had written about it here once before... the mom who was pregnant and she and the other moms were sharing their pregnancy stories as I, quietly smiled and eaves dropped...

I feel like I need to do a follow-up to that post. That woman went on to have her babies... yes babies... twins! They have been at the studio since the fall dance classes began and she has had them with her always. Clearly they were quite premature (they are very tiny still). I have overheard many conversations... on how hard it was... The boy was sick... But mostly I hear about how amazing it is- how there was 'something in the water' and how busy life is with these new twins and her now family of four. Her friends ooh and aaah over the babies (as is normal) and still I hate it.

Having been on this road for eight years, I can usually push back feelings of jealousy- but who am I kidding?? Feelings are feelings and as much as I'd love to say that I am this wonderful person with an amazing outlook- above such childish emotions as jealousy- the fact of the matter is that I am extremely jealous! And while it was mentioned that I too have four kids at home (I wanted some recognition)- she had "something in the water" to have those twins...

Well, I once had a sip of that water too... but I didn't dare say it. I mentioned something about having a twin pregnancy but no one said anything to me- asking me about it- and I quickly stopped myself from adding any more and realized that I was going into territory that made my palms sweaty and my heart race. And so I did what I always have when I start to feel jealous, angry or just sad... I breathe in and out... and in and out... until I can turn the page.

A friend who has no living children mentioned that her friend was pregnant... how she is happy for her friend, but more sad for herself and wondered if it ever got any easier. I would like to say that Yes. It does. But... Sometimes it can rip you up inside still. I have no reason to feel this jealousy. After all, I am in that good place... I really am...

But still today I thought- I could have done that too. I could have taken care of two babies- I could have done without the sleep and taken them out to places. That could have been me...

But it wasn't.

So today I felt a little sorry for myself. And with four healthy children living in my house I am more than ashamed to be admitting it.

But today I felt a little sorry for myself. And with two in heaven, I think that I will allow myself that and not be ashamed for admitting it.

I don't think I'm alone.

After all... I am in a good place.
Sometimes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Remember Us.

I have been thinking~
And when I've been thinking, I usually need to come here.

October 15th has been set aside as a national day of remembrance- To remember people like me and our babies who we lost either through miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss. If you are driving near a hospital and see balloons of pinks, blues and whites flying into the air, chances are that you are witnessing a balloon release. And those balloons you see... they represent the life of someone who was wanted so very, very much. Each balloon was held by someone with hopes and dreams for a child, who- like the balloon- they couldn't hold on to.

The words I write here of course are of my opinion and I do not claim to represent nor speak for everyone in this secret society. The truth is that we are all very different- as unique as our losses. Some long for you to remember and some may want you to forget (or at least act that way).

I have recently seen many posts on facebook about October 15th, and how important it is to remember people (like me) who have had a loss. I like seeing them. One struck me recently though. She wrote that when she asked people to remember October 15th- to remember her child- the only people who mentioned her baby or commented on her posts were people of this (loss) community. That made me pause and wonder and ask myself... why?

I wondered- because that hasn't been my experience. When I woke up on September 15th, and checked my email, my facebook, my phone messages, my mailbox... I had loads of messages from friends remembering my son. And while they wrote such kind things that had me in (happy) tears, what I really treasured was that they wrote (or said) the one thing that mattered to me ~his name~. There is something about hearing the name of someone you thought everyone else forgot that can lift you. Make you pause. Bring (happy) tears to your eyes because they remembered!

Of course many of the people I heard from were friends I know from this community- but there were a large number who have never had a loss- or had a child- or even wanted one. I wondered why it would be that my friends would (and do) acknowledge my Andrew and E, while other people's friends do not. And while I may say that it is because I have the best friends out there... (I think I do), I know that that is not the case. Everyone in this life has someone out there who loves them, cares for them, and remembers. So why don't they wake up with the same sweet messages in their inboxes on the anniversaries? On October 15ths? I am no more special than anyone else- Why haven't my friends 'forgotten' like others have?

And then I got to thinking, I don't think that their friends forgot. I think that perhaps the difference is, I have a big mouth. I have said Andrew's name so much (especially in those early days, months, years) that people who know me and know my living children are able to recall his name just as easily as the children who they see each day. They remember though not just because I speak his name, but because I have given them permission. I have told them what I want from them. What I need from them. I need them to say his name. I need them to remember, for when they do~ it matters. It matters more than I could ever express.

I have only been married for a decade but I learned early on that though I'd like to think my husband can read my mind and know what I am thinking, the truth is... he can't. If something matters to me- if I need something- I need to say it. Tell him. Similarly, I think that we in this community- if we truly want our friends to remember- need to guide them, tell them what we need. They want to help us, sometimes they just can't read our minds- and we need to forgive them for that...

All of this has reminded me of that beautiful quote I have referenced before:
"If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anyone that is important to them, and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died~ They didn't forget that they died. You're not reminding them. What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived and that is a great, great gift."
Elizabeth Edwards

Share with your friends. Tell them what you need. Tell them what you want.
I just did.
Remember.
And say their name(s).

Sunday, October 2, 2011

8

September 15th took a lot out of me this year.
It wasn't actually September 15th itself, but also the days leading up to it.
And the days that followed.

It had been a rough week. A little girl was in the hospital with heart trouble, another baby was given mere weeks to live. I was caught up in the wonderings... what would 8 have been like? What would he have been like?

Three days before September 15th, we were saying prayers in our daughter's room when Jonasen said, "God, I just don't understand why you had to let my brother die." I opened my eyes and looked at him. I wanted to say something- put a bandaid on it- make it better but I had nothing. My mouth hung open and time stood still.

I followed Joe back to his room. I searched for words- I wanted to give him an answer, give him a reason, but I couldn't...
because I don't quite know the reasons.
While so many blessings have come from Andrew's death- they hardly feel like enough.

He's 8.
He's 8 and asking questions I don't have the answers to.

He said to me, "Mom. I don't know what he looks like. I don't remember being with him. I don't know if I'll recognize him. Will he know me? Will he be a baby?"

I tried my best. I took my breath.

The truth is that I don't remember what he looks like. The discolored pictures that are framed in my room are not the images I once had of that boy who was pulled from me pink and beautiful, a sleeping babe.

I don't remember those hours we spent together. Not like I should. I can picture him in my arms, in their arms as we looked at our sons- but that memory too is faded and blurry and try as I may, I can't get it to focus.

I think I will recognize him.

I know he will recognize me.

I don't think he'll be a baby and that comforts me and hurts me all at the same time. I want to talk to him when I get there. Ask him- but I still want to know what he looked like- what he was like at 2... 5...
8...

I didn't have answers- and the ones swimming in my head weren't ready for an 8 year old boy who wondered about his twin. And so I held him and whether he knew I was crying or not- I don't know. I told him I loved him. That Andrew did too. And that one thing that I was certain of was that God loved him very much and dying in this world, means living forever in heaven.

Wow.
I dropped it.
I failed big. The woman with so many words fumbled through it all- there was no pause just a quick search for answers. A silence that I wanted to fill- instead of living in it- Answers to questions that I have no answers to...

He's 8.
And more questions will come.
I just pray that somehow the answers will come with them...
Though somehow I know that there are no
answers.


October we remember babies all of the world who flew away too soon. Today I joined families from my local hospital at the annual Walk to Remember. This year we let lanterns fly to the heavens. Below are some pictures from the day.

To watch them on Youtube, click HERE.
I was touched when my husband (who never attends the walks- too painful) suggested the song to set them too. Though it is from the 80s, it is perfect. Here are the Lyrics:

I feel the chill of Autumn's wind
seasons changing once again
And every moment's best,
still one moment less we spend
Together my friend
I can't hold back these tears in my eyes
this time I won't even try
For time has come and gone, now we must move on
I'll admit I don't know why

Chorus:
Now we must say good-bye
to find our road ahead
Destiny leads us on to another place
but I'll meet you there someday

We chase the future into past
only to find it never lasts
And by the time it's gone, the pain is so strong in the end
But listen my friend
Although we've lost what was before
forever will bring us the chance once more
And in that time we'll see, what was meant to be
A special moment to cherish for all of our lives
and we'll know in time

Chorus:
Why we must say good-bye
to find our road ahead
Destiny leads us on to another place
but I'll meet you there
From the lives we all leave behind
we find there's much more ahead
The Father will lead us on to a better place
And I'll meet you there someday
I'll meet you there someday
I'll meet you there someday

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 15th



To watch on You Tube, click here

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pausing to Remember (9-11)

I remember asking my parents where they were when Kennedy and MLK were shot, and asking my grandparents what it was like when Pearl Harbor happened. I knew that in my lifetime there would be defining events- things that I would remember- remember where I was when I heard the news... The OJ verdict, Princess Diana's death... but none will come close to that day back in 2001 when the world literally changed in a matter of moments.

Where was I?

I was in my early weeks of school. It was my first year being "Mrs. Doran," as I had been married just that last April and was getting used to my 'new name'. I was getting ready for my second graders to arrive to school. It was a beautiful day and I loved September. I remember getting an email from my husband that morning. Something about a plane hitting one of the twin towers. I didn't think too much of it at the time... Of course I prayed for the family of the pilot and anyone else who may have been on board at the time. I assumed it was a small plane and maybe it had hit the top part of the building since those buildings were so high. Little did I know the severity of what was happening and that my husband (working in business at the time) was huddled around a TV with coworkers getting the horrific details of that day in real time as they unfolded.

I was going through our morning routine, counting the days of school and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance when my principal came over the PA asking everyone to make sure that all TVs in the school were turned off. Mine was off but still I remember wondering what was happening. A typed letter was brought to all of us letting us know what was happening though at the time, no one really knew WHAT was happening... It was soon after, that I saw another email from Jeff. Another plane had hit the other tower and in that moment I knew that whatever picture my mind had of that first plane- that picture was far off from the reality of what was happening in New York. Something was wrong. There couldn't possibly be two planes. America was under attack.

I immediately started praying. Thinking of the busy city. Wondering about my childhood friend who worked near and sometimes in the towers and praying that she wasn't there that morning. At lunch I was able to call my husband. I learned about the building collapsing, the other planes and what he described to me still was hard to picture. Some parents came to school to get their children. It wasn't until I got home and every channel on my television was showing the same picture... over and over that I saw the magnitude of what had happened that sunny morning. All I did was cry. I sat there and cried and cried and didn't know what else to do. I couldn't turn off the television. I just sat there watching and crying and praying that somehow we would all survive what was really happening. Our world changed that day.

September 12th was equally hard. I remember praying that I would have the words- the answers to the questions my second graders would ask. As I had expected, they were trying to make sense of what was going on. Seeing this was hard for me (at age 25) to fully comprehend, I can't imagine what it must have been like for a seven year old mind. They asked so many questions- about people dying about PARENTS dying and about those kids who no longer had a mom or dad at home. They were sad and they were scared. I assured them that they were safe and that our school was safe but realizing that we were living in much different times- I hoped that my words didn't give me up. At that time I really wondered if we were safe.

It was strange~ those days. There wasn't a plane in the sky and while I don't often think or notice planes, their absence was loud. My husband told me when he first noticed a plane return to the sky, he wondered. Perhaps we all did. The truth was anything was possible. If the twin towers could fall, anything could happen.

The days and weeks and months that followed September 11th were a blur. I would see a flag and begin to cry- and in those days flags were everywhere. Every car had one and they were on every front porch. People wore pins upon their jackets and red, white and blue on their shirts. People seemed kinder because we all somehow knew that we were walking witnesses to our world changing~ and the reality that it could change in just a moment was the one thing that I remember sitting with the most- and that unified us.

The need to "do something" was so strong in those days. I remember writing checks for hundreds of dollars in hopes to help the families that were directly affected. My students too wanted to do something and many went door to door collecting blankets, toys and games. For they were still remembering the children- their peers- who perhaps lost a parent and they wanted to make them smile again and know that children far away were still thinking of them. I remember loading up my car with things they brought along with handmade cards, crying again because I knew that they too wanted to help- put a big band aid on the enormous hurt that was everywhere. And they saw that hurt on every adult face that knew our lives were suddenly different.

I don't know if I will ever be able to fully explain the days of 9-11 to my children. The images I have sitting in church with tears just streaming down my face (and the faces of others) for weeks afterward is something that will stay with me. The country was in so much pain, but we somehow were in it together- even those of us far from the city- for those images were everywhere. Try as I may, I will never get those images out of my mind. The planes- the buildings crumbling and yes- the people jumping to their deaths to escape whatever hell they were experiencing in those buildings that would soon be no more.

And now ten years later, America has changed. I have changed. I cannot recall the last time I saw a car with a flag on it (and our cars do not have them either). My children and students do not know the word "terrorist" like those students ten years ago. People don't look at each other and somehow know what the other is thinking. We've gone back to 'normal'.

Today our family all wore shirts with our country's flag. I spoke to my children about why we were wearing them on this day and what happened to this country before they were even born. I know from their faces that they understood my words but the magnitude of it wasn't felt and I wonder if they will ever fully understand. Like my grandparents and Great Uncle would talk about Pearl Harbor- the history they lived- that was something that happened in the history books. It wasn't MY history. But September 11th~ September 11th was my history. I remember where I was. I remember what I felt.

At church today there was a baptism. A little boy who looked to be only a few days old. His father held him in his arms. His father had made it home for his son's birth. You see, he was serving in Afghanistan and in a few days, he will return. Upon hearing this, our whole congregation rose to their feet and applauded. The room filled with appreciation and it kept going. My daughter looked at me and wondered why I was crying like I was (more than my usual baptism tears). It isn't often that you get to share a room with a hero.

My world has gone back to 'normal'~ but I know for many, many families the tragedy that happened on September 11th is always right there below the surface. Much like September 15th for me is always right there...

The reality is that post September 11th, there are still people trying to hurt us simply because we are Americans. Post September 11th there are still brave men and women giving their lives to protect us. And Post September 11th I know that I live in a country that is resilient and will survive. Today I thank those brave men and women who served during our country's worst tragedy and those who continue to serve and give us a world of 'normal' back. Today (and every September 11th), I will remember them. Thank them. Pray for them.

And I have a feeling that I am not alone.
Where were you?

If you feel so moved, please leave a comment below of your 9-11. History is not just in books, but in the lives of those who live it.
Thanks~
L

Friday, September 9, 2011

9-9

It is September 9th.
Three years ago today, I lost a baby.
Three years ago-
Today.

I didn't think it would happen. I didn't think it COULD happen. Losing Andrew seemed to be it. Though I was always fearful in all of my pregnancies after him, I somehow felt that losing Andrew had gained me something... perhaps the assurance that it wouldn't happen again- it couldn't happen again.

But it did.

It seems only natural that I would compare the two. We cried like we did with Andrew- lost our voices- crumbled to the floor. It was as if I was watching an old movie- of myself. I immediately went into the mindset that~ I had done this before. I had survived it once. I would do it again. And I did.

But.

This was different.

There was something with Andrew that made it easier... He had a name. He had a body we held. And people saw him (albeit in me). They knew he existed- and in a sense they watched him grow. We were allowed to mourn him.

E was different. We saw a heartbeat three times, but hadn't let many in on our secret blessing. They hadn't watched E grow. They didn't know how I loved her and prayed for her and begged her to stay. My tears were mostly shared in our house -in the evenings. When everyone was in their own homes watching the evening news~ we were living our own tragedy. Grieving a child that was long out of the minds of those who knew she even existed.

No one really knew. And so when she was gone, nothing changed.
I wasn't showing, so my body didn't give me up.
I missed only a couple days of work.

And I was back again. Teaching young children~ all the while thinking they all made it... and I have had two now that haven't... How does that happen??

I was back again and it seemed I had fallen into the pattern of living too soon. Of course I thought every day that I should be pregnant, but felt that I couldn't really talk about that... You see, E was "Just a miscarriage". "Everyone has them."

But gosh it hurt.

I still have the notebook I wrote in that day at school as I taught my third graders. The one where I begged and pleaded for E to stay- please stay. Perhaps I knew what was happening and just wanted to hold on as long as I could. How I wished she'd hold on... But she didn't.

Three years later though, I know she is safe. With her big brother. Waiting for the day we are all reunited. And I like to think she is glad I remember- and so many of my friends did too. I like to think that she knows my love for her never died. That I think about her still- and share her with the world. In a sense she won't die, until I do.

Today is September 9th and again today I was in school and my mind often drifted back to that day- three years ago- remembering all that took place like it was just yesterday. But it wasn't just yesterday and I went through the motions. I gathered my first graders at the end of the day and we joined our school in tying wishes to balloons and letting them drift off to the heavens.

I didn't have a balloon.
I didn't need one.
My wish lives in heaven.
Waiting for me.

Happy Birthday sweet E. I didn't forget. I never will.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

My Words

I recently wrote about a game that was on facebook. My intentions of course were what all of my "Pause" blog intentions are... to get whatever is swirling around in my crazy mind out so that I can be 'free' of it. Because the internet is far-reaching, there is opportunity for many to hear my rambling thoughts- the world according to Laura- my therapy of sorts. I wrote often in those early days too- via letters to Andrew and whether I be angry, sad, or just plain missing him, those letters felt like a big exhale as did my blog (and apology) about the facebook 'game'.

As I write this, over 3000 people have read that post (which amazes me still) and I realize that this 'therapy' of mine can sometimes help not just me, but others too. I heard from many who I do not think realized how this 'game' could have hurt others- and those of you who shared it with your friends, I thank you. In a sense, this game (through this blog and others like it) shared the feelings of what people (like me) who have lost a child, carry with them everyday. This 'game' allowed others a bit of an insight into my life and reminded ME of another lesson that I sometimes forget. Your best lessons can come from your biggest mistakes. Though I know I was forgiven and had a 'free pass' from my community on this 'game', it still was a big mistake for me... I should have known better- but I have learned- and I have reflected and now I have more thoughts swimming in my mind that need to come out.

I was blessed to have an amazing mentor in my life- someone I looked up to and watched. From a very young age, I knew that there was something different about him- something special and so I learned from him. Not like a student learns from a teacher- but how most of us learn the really important lessons in life- by watching.

I watched for a very long time and then in those dreaded 'tween' years, we became penpals. I would bend his ear, ask his advice and memorize things he'd write to me. So poetic. So poignant. I wanted to be like him, and I want to be like him still but I am (clearly from my last post) still a work in progress.

Whether you are aware or not you are being watched- by adults and children in your life. Your choices impact far more than you think- even if you don't post them on a blog for the world to read. Similarly, I like to think that Andrew and E continue to touch lives and make a difference in me and through me (for the better). Emily Dickinson very wisely said, "A word is dead, when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day." This is true of not just her words... but yours- and mine. Words can take on a world of their own. They can anger you, move you to tears or make you laugh until you cry.

Words.
Words are powerful.

All of this has reminded me of one lesson I learned from my mentor. One that some of you may have heard before (as it comes from a much greater teacher), "Be quick to listen and slow to speak." I love this quote so much, that I even had it written in my public school classroom (and loved when the occasional ~elementary~ student would recognize its origins). If you are unfamiliar, this is a quote from the manual for Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (otherwise known as the bible: James 1:19).

This lesson is (clearly) something I need to work on and I think many in this day and age may need as well. With social media the way it is, we think it, we type it, we press send and its out there- a delete key is too little too late. And what you say or write is there for the taking- free for anyone to interpret in any way they like. So I need to pause. On this blog I am quick to listen. I listen to your words, I read your emails, blogs and comments. I hear it all. I pause. I choose my words as carefully as I can, praying that my words will come out the way in which they were intended and the thoughts swimming in my head will leave me be.

Why did I watch my mentor so? Because he was quiet. He was funny, quick-witted and wise. He was quick to listen and slow to speak and after all, we learn not from talking but from pausing- reflecting- thinking- watching. Today's actions may and probably will impact someone's tomorrow.

Clearly I am (VERY) far from perfect- but this all (0 Weeks and Craving Forgiveness) has reminded me that pausing is something that I need to strive for- for today.

That mentor of mine, the wise man who made me want to be more like him- a better listener- a wise friend- I think would be pleased. Yes. He'd be pleased with my words. These words.

But then again, sometimes the greatest lessons aren't expressed in words, but in actions.

I watched him. I watched him that day in church as he cried, tears streaming down his wrinkled, wise face, watching me with my little Jonasen- thinking of Andrew- and remembering the pain of losing his own son. He remembered. He didn't have to speak, I heard volumes. But I never thanked him for those lessons.

My twinless twin, my son Jonasen has no idea the lessons I learned from his namesake- and like Andrew- though he lives now in the heavens- continues to teach me.

My Grandpa Jonasen
Thank you.

And thank you for reading
My words
And sharing yours.

Hugs-
L

Friday, September 2, 2011

0 Weeks and Craving Forgiveness

When I think of who I am and how I got to this point in my life- what has shaped me- the number one "thing' would be Andrew. The kind of Christian I am, mother I am- The kind of wife, friend, teacher, person... it all comes back to him.

I remember when I was numb- months out- driving- and a woman gave me the finger mouthing some words at me- clearly quite angry at something I did... I still don't know what happened, but I remember (literally) smiling and waving. I did this while thinking, poor thing... she probably had a really bad day~ perhaps she just lost someone like I did... Maybe she lost a baby too... I thought this because everyone must be like me- You see, I had just gotten out of the 'angry at the world' stage. I was oblivious- but at the same time, keenly aware.

I chose my words very carefully (though you probably wouldn't notice). I never asked someone how many children they had because it was a question I hated to answer. I didn't ask people who had been married for some time if they were 'trying' because my assumption was that they were and it wasn't going well and that -in itself- is a loss... a loss of that dream us little girls have- we grow up, fall in love, get married, have babies, the end.
I don't talk about my living children here (unless it is their thoughts of their brother or sister) and I am careful (as much as I can) to not talk about them with friends who are trying so hard to have a baby.

But recently I dropped the ball and for that I feel sick and apologize from the bottom of my broken heart.

I was on facebook when I read many friends (most of them older and from my church) who were writing how many "weeks they were" and what they were "craving". The inference here was that they were pregnant. I thought it was funny (because clearly they weren't) and I wanted in on the joke. I played along (most of my friends knowing that I had had a tubal so wouldn't be pregnant) but my computer lit up, and my phone rang off the hook with people asking me (for real) if I was pregnant... (clearly their friends hadn't gotten the same forward I had about the 'game' whose purpose was apparently to raise awareness for breast cancer). Some people laughed and thought it was funny- and to be honest- at the time, I thought it was 'funny' that people would honestly think that I was pregnant.

It wasn't until a friend sent me a message- (A friend who lost two beautiful twin boys, a friend with no living children but an overwhelming desire to be a mother of children that people SEE)- wrote me congratulating me, that all laughter and smiles stopped. I lost my breath and my eyes started to water. I realized what I had done. I realized that I had turned into one of 'those' people... those people whose mouths drip insensitive questions and thoughts not out of malice but because they are clueless. Those people who are the topic of most meetings I have attended and countless posts on support group pages. I wondered how many people read my 'status update' and wanted to give me the finger while I smiled and waved... oblivious. I felt sick to my stomach, let her in on the 'joke' and quickly posted the message I got to every 'baby-loss group' I am a member of in hopes to save others from the 'sting' of hearing a friend was pregnant... when in fact they were not. Some thanked for the clarification but after that came outrage, and rightfully so.

To this community being pregnant is no laughing matter.

To many in this community when they become pregnant they know the week and day of their pregnancy and 'first trimester' safety... Ya, that means nothing to us. Hell, my twins were good and cooked at 39 weeks... well passed that 'first trimester' safety mark.

When you want to have a baby... if you've been trying for two months or two years- while you may be happy for someone else, you can't help but be more sad for you- it is human. I learned that when my brother and his wife were expecting their first child a month after I had lost baby E. As excited as I was to be an auntie, and as happy as I was for them... I felt sick and sad. Sad for me. I remember being glad that I heard their exciting news over the phone so that they didn't have to read my face in that moment. It wasn't about them... it was all about me...

I wonder how many read that post about my 'cravings' and had that same feeling~ sadness~ and my "playing along" had caused that for some and for that, I deeply apologize.

I have since 'removed' the post.

The purpose was to 'raise awareness for breast cancer'... how the game did that, I don't know. Trying to find a reason for everything, my guess is that the hope was to get people talking and get some air time on the Today Show or Good Morning America- but perhaps what this game can do is bring more awareness to my number one 'cause'.

Yes. I know people who have suffered from cancer. It claimed the life of my father-in-law. My mother-in-law is a survivor... my sister-in-law...

But I am a survivor too. I survived losing a son. Holding a son who was dead in my arms. Holding a son who I carried for 39 long weeks. Holding a son who just mere hours before I delivered him had been alive within me... kicking! A son who would have been here had I delivered just that morning. Look at your child. That could have been Andrew.

But no one really knows my struggles. They may have remembered my now 'once upon a time' story but they don't know how I still think about him everyday- that just turning the calendar to September brought a lump in my throat knowing that that precious boy would have been 8 in just a few short weeks and I never got to see his smile.

Somehow I survived.

I'm surviving still- but for some reason my 'cause' doesn't get air-time.
Oprah never talked about me (though of course I wrote her as I'm sure many other of us 'Secret Society' moms did)... Perhaps your baby had to live a while to get on her show... Perhaps I was going crazy... Perhaps it was just me...

But now I know that it's not just me and I'm not crazy... or maybe I am. But there's a whole lot of us crazies out there that are suffering from a disease that eats us up... a broken heart from someone that we loved dearly but that no one else saw and therefore was forgotten by the next week or two.

I can tell you non-members of this society that those who suffered a loss were hurt by this. And I assure you that those who want nothing more than to become pregnant were hurt by this and THIS is what I hope spreads like wildfire. I am sure no one meant for anyone to get hurt, but I am 0 weeks and craving forgiveness- for not being sensitive to MY group. Perhaps this 'game' will bring attention to "us"- Attention to a group that doesn't have some celebrity spokesperson or representatives on the morning talk shows.

But there is talk- of that I assure you. The world will say that there is no pain like losing a child- But I don't fall into that category because my children never took a breath- not one that I didn't breathe for them. They didn't count.
The world never talks about me. I have no color. No ribbons worn by celebrities as they make their speeches at their awards shows. They never talk about 'me'. But perhaps they will now. Maybe this game will bring attention- just to a different cause. Mine. Ours.

So talk about that. Talk about us.
The Secret Society.
Share this on your facebook pages.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ifs, Thens and a Stick


We recently went on a last-minute-mini-vacation before getting back to real life. We are both teachers and have been getting ready for a new school year. We packed up our children and headed North to Lake Michigan to try to hold onto summer~ escape one last time before September is upon us.
Just writing that reminds me of those days (that followed that September). Days I'd want to 'get away from it all' or 'leave it all behind' but somehow that which I wanted to get away from always found me~ much like they found me on this vacation. Of course I think of them every day but those moments when I really sit down and wonder and wish are not as frequent as they once were...

I don't often mention my living children here (the last thing I ever wanted to hear about in those early years was something about living children), but they are an important part of a moment I had- a 'pause' moment as I call them...

It was nearing the end of the day and the sun was about to set. I took my three three oldest children down to the beach and left my husband back with our baby. I sat on a towel, while I watched a beautiful sunset. There was a storm across Lake Michigan but it was no where near us. I could see it in the distance. The colors were amazing and I got to thinking that sometimes in the midst of these horrible storms, something beautiful could come.

I was listening to the rhythm of the waves, the laughter of my children and I almost saw him. Imagined that we were all down at the beach. Six of us. My husband, Andrew, Jonasen, Ali Jane and Zach. They would all be old enough so that Jeff and I could just watch them. I wondered what the dynamic would have been like. Having the Boys~ would they have been tight with Ali Jane too. Would there be some "twin" thing, or would it be like this~ all of them. Working together on a sandcastle, laughing.

I so wanted to see that picture. Zoom in. What would his face look like now? Next month he would have been 8 already.

And then I went back to that place of protection. My way of trying to somehow make sense of this horrific tragedy. The tragedy of losing my son. IF he were here THEN Sean (our baby) would not and I could hardly imagine my life without him and am thankful that I am not God and do not control such things. For now, as hard as it is for me to imagine my life with Andrew in it (though I try to focus that fuzzy picture), it is equally hard for me to imagine my life without Sean in it... How did I get here? Was it time?

I played a lot of that IF/ THEN game... because in our 'perfect' world we always wanted 'four kids'. We actually got six, with four 'at home'. I knew that we would stop at four so if Andrew had been here, or E had been here, who wouldn't?

I sat there thinking and wondering.
Thinking and wondering.

I stood and walked to the the water, feeling the sand beneath my feet feeling... melancholy~ so full~ and yet so broken all at once.

The view was amazing~ the colors in the sky, the clearness of the water. Nothing but sand and rocks and then I saw one lone stick. It was as if it was waiting for me.

I picked it up and wrote their names- a sad attempt of making them there. On our vacation. But as soon as I wrote their names, it seemed the lake came up and washed them away and just like that they were gone. No one would see their names, but they were there.

I thought of my husband and baby, and the three beautiful children in front of me. I thought of the storm and how beautiful it was~ since I was further away from it~ and I smiled.

No one sees them. But they're there.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Heaven is for Real

We will all have that moment.
The one when we pass from this life to the next.
I often think about mine... when it will be, what it will be like.
But more often, I think about his.

Some know the moment they left. I remember still that second "un-meeting" I went to. "Un-meeting" because there wasn't a meeting scheduled that night but since she and I were both there, we sat down and made our own. She too had lost a son, but like all of us in this secret society, her story was different than mine. He had lived a while. Suffered. But when she spoke of his passing a peace swept across her face. She was holding him. They were outside and it was a perfect day. A day when the sky is clear~ dotted with white cotton clouds~ "A straight shot". She held her son, looked at him and watched him take his last breath. She looked to the sky and thought, "A straight shot."

I sat there soaking in her words and felt the comfort she had saying them. Sure, she had lost a son just like I had but there are moments that we cling to in our stories- moments that are our's that we find comfort in... this was one of her's.

I started to think about that. That moment. The one when Andrew passed from this world to the next. I tried to think back to that day but as hard as I try to remember the moment- what I was doing when he flew away- I can't, because I don't know.

2003 was a tough year for us. One when we lost three precious members of our family...

Though I was not there I knew the moment my Great Auntie died. I was sitting in my bed and it was late at night. I was writing Andrew a letter in his journal, writing about her, when the light next to me went out. I had tears streaming down my face and because the hallway light was on, I was still able to continue my thoughts~ wondering about her time~ was it near? When I finished my writing, the lights came back on and I wondered... a sign? I wrote about that thought- shut off the light- and went to bed.

The next morning, I got a call from my dad. My Auntie had passed sometime during the night. She was out of her pain, in a better place. I was getting closer. I knew the moment, but I was not there.

And then came the last death we had that year. Like my Auntie, we knew it would come. My father-in-law had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after our boys were born. He suffered that year and as predicted by the doctor, it was his last.

Those final days were filled with pain- utterings of things we didn't always understand. The nurse told us sometimes people 'wait' for things, for 'unfinished' business. We couldn't imagine what he was waiting for~ One of the last things I remember him asking was if it was December yet... Everyone looked around the room that August day and wondered why the question. I looked down at my swollen belly and wondered if it contained the answer.

I felt like I was swimming. We were coming up to the first anniversary of my son's death, my Auntie had passed and here I was waiting... waiting for his turn. Though I loved him so very much, I still felt like an outsider looking in. I slipped my hand in my husbands knowing that that was why I was there- in these intimate moments with his family.

Days went by and it was suggested that we leave- go grab a shower- a bite to eat- some sunshine (that in those days only seemed to be seen through the hospital window). We stayed so they could go. They went, and it was the three of us in that room. Alone.

It was so quiet. Just the sound of his labored breathing. I will never forget the rhythm of it~ the sound it made- like a broken machine determined to keep going.

We went close to his bed, one on either side. My husband grabbed his father's hand, and I grabbed his other. This was it. Our moment. To say all those things that were on our heart. All those things we wanted to say, but couldn't in front of the others.

We told him we knew he'd see Andrew soon. Tell him we love him. Tell him how much we miss him. Sing to him in that off-key, wonderful way that you sing to your other grandchildren. Look him in his eyes- those beautiful eyes that we never saw and tell him we'll be there- We'll be home one day and until we meet again, not a day will go by that we don't think of him.

I looked to my stomach and felt a kick and we told him it was OK. He could see this grandchild born from heaven. There was another grandchild it was time to meet. We would take care of mom. It was OK. He could leave.

In that moment his breathing changed. The time between breaths was growing. My husband stayed with his father while I grabbed the nurse. She said it was hard to tell, but that perhaps we should call her.

My mother-in-law made it moments later. She rushed to her husband's side. I stood in the corner feeling I shouldn't be here for this. This is not my moment. She placed her hands on him and said, "It's OK. I'm here." I stood with tears running down my face because I felt it. That same peace I did that September when I knew he was safe. The same peace I felt when that light came back on. I knew.

She asked if we had heard him take another breath. We both shook our heads. I squeezed my husband's hand and went to get the nurse. I waited outside the room. This was not my moment but God had let me in. He let me see how peaceful, how wonderful how perfect it is~ When it is time, perhaps you just know.

I don't know what it was like for Andrew. What did he see? What did he hear? What did he feel? But I do know that it was his time. Being there- in that moment- I felt a strange peace about all of it. About death.

I sat in that hallway crying for what was lost- an amazing man who I would miss loving my children.
I sat in that hallway crying for what was gained- an amazing man who would be there- loving my (now) children.

I recently read a book, Heaven is for Real. I read it nodding~ for it unfolded like I thought it would. Like I knew it would. Because I believe and I know. It would be a comfort for those who need it. An answer perhaps.

Heaven is for real.
They are there.
And one day, I'll be there too.

**The picture is of my Jonasens' hands...
My son and his namesake who now holds the hands of my others, in heaven~

Friday, July 15, 2011

For those not in the 'Secret Society'

I sometimes feel like I don't know how to fit Andrew and E in~ When to share them, or when not. In early years, I would NEVER had said that I would not share them~ but it was also in those earlier years that I got quite burned (even when I was being quite respectful... which admittedly I wasn't always...).

I am a teacher and when I returned from my maternity leave with the boys everyone knew about Andrew and for that I was grateful. I didn't need to share my story with everyone- but coworkers, parents and even students shared their condolences. The following year was not so easy on me...

That first day of school I was introducing myself to my second grade students. I remember choosing my words carefully and said (as I still do today), "I have a husband, two dogs and one son 'at home'." I then went on to share little tidbits about myself when a hand raised and said, "Yes. And you had another son that died."
(Gulp) "Yes, I did."
"What was his name?
"Andrew."
"Do you miss him?"
"Yes."
"What are your dogs' names?"
(Exhale) And that was it.

I was so thankful for the whole exchange really. I loved that the student remembered Andrew and equally I loved that we moved on so easily to the next topic without missing a beat. One of the things I love about working with children~ their honesty~ their curiosity.

The year went on without a hitch (or so I thought) until a group of parents took issue with me talking about my 'dead son' (from the exchange above that I spoke of). And so began a very tough year of me writing letters asking parents not to address me (as they had planned) at a parent meeting regarding my 'dead son'. To explain what was said (which was so minimal) in class. To beg that they respect my wishes and let me grieve quietly. I was afraid someone would say something to me. I was so fragile in those early years and I didn't know what would set me off. Being confronted (and I felt attacked) about this was not another thing I wanted to add to my load.

It was then that I knew that sharing Andrew would need to be limited to family and friends. I would tread lightly and choose my words carefully and hope that questions wouldn't arise in future years. So far they have not.

When pregnant with my daughter, a student's mom asked how I was feeling. When I replied that I felt good but tired she said, "You should see what it's like carrying twins."

I fought back tears and the extreme urge to tell her every detail of my "perfect" twin pregnancy. I wanted to say... "Oh ya! How big were YOURS? How long did YOU go?? I went 39 weeks and they were 6 pounds 11 ounces and 6 pounds even... separate sacs, separate placentae! I KNOW what tired feels like sister!"

But I simply nodded and wondered how on earth I could find the strength to stand without crumbling to the floor which is what I so desperately wanted to do- for at that time the anger and sadness was gone and I felt just a shell- ready to shatter.

But somehow God gave me the strength to stand.
The grace to bite my tongue when I needed to.
The courage to hold back tears until I was alone.
The ability to nod when I had nothing else to say.

And so years have gone by and the community that once knew about Andrew is mostly gone and if there is chatter among the neighbors, I was certainly unaware. When I lost E a few years back (on the night I was to have a meeting with parents) a student came back and told me their mom thought I had my appendix out. I simply nodded... (Oh.)

I have survived though- gone on and even started having twins in my classroom (though none have been boy/boy twins thus far which seems to make it a bit easier). But still when I hear wonderful stories about a 'twin', my mind always drifts and wonders... what if? What kind of stories could Jonasen have shared about his twin...

But time has given me patience and pause and has made me realize that my being Andrew's mom is not visible to the world and that is that. I wear him on my heart though (and in certain circles on my sleeve) and that is enough.

So when I opened my school email the other day and got the following message, I was taken aback. It read (and I did ask permission to share it):

I knew who you were before you were Isabelle's teacher. I had heard your story from a few parents I know in our neighborhood. I then found out that you were also a story I was told about by friends just after Isaac and Isabelle were born. My heart ached for you each time I heard your story. I sat in the library and was told you were ill the night you could not attend curriculum night when my oldest entered 3rd grade. I didn't find out why until later, a friend of ours had you as a teacher that year. I have thought of you and prayed for you even before you knew who I was. I don't know why I didn't tell you any of this this year as our lives actually intertwined. Isabelle was thrilled when she found out you had 4 kids and your name was Laura! "and she is really nice too, just like you!"
I apologize for not having courage enough to talk to you about the other thing we have in common, we are both Mom's of twins. Thank you for your beautiful blog about Andrew and Baby E. It is a wonderful story of love that I am glad you share. I wasn't sure I should read any of it at first, afraid it wasn't meant for me because I am not a part of your secret society. Once I started reading it though, I realized that it was OK for me to know about him, maybe even important in some way. I learned a lot reading your story, things maybe I can look at with more perspective and appreciate in a way I didn't before. Maybe it can help me be more sensitive to others, be a better friend, mother, sister.
Isabelle and I have started journaling together this summer. I was going to write you and tell you that on facebook when I saw your post about Andrew. I am thankful for the chance to have read it and so glad Isabelle got to have you for a teacher this past year. You have a such a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing all of them with us.

I sat and looked and stared at my computer screen for a long time not knowing quite how to respond or what to say. After years of thinking that Andrew was hidden, perhaps he wasn't. Perhaps people still know. Perhaps they do see him and don't quite know what to say~ but for me, she said the perfect thing.

She said his name.
She said their names.
And she called me a mom of twins.

I sometimes wonder who reads this blog. I know how often it is read but there is a small percentage that actually let me know their thoughts after reading. I think that perhaps the majority of the readers here are those (like me) who are suffering the horrible loss of a child and looking for others in their community- someone else who feels like they do- or someone who is a little beyond the fog that they are stuck in... Trying to find some 'light' in all the darkness that can swallow you whole while the world just keeps spinning.

I never really thought of those who may be reading who aren't part of my secret society and haven't suffered the loss of a child~ but perhaps they benefit too. I can think of many times someone has said something to me... well meaning- but still hurt to no end. Words that stuck with me for days- weeks and yes even years. Perhaps because I just nodded. Because I didn't have a rewind button so I could do things over- tell them how it hurt me- so they wouldn't do it again... to someone else.

But maybe this is my rewind button. Maybe (sometimes) my words can be a way to say all that I ever wanted to say to those who are really wondering... "How is she doing?" but so afraid to ask.

So how am I doing? I am doing well. A mother of twins that everyone sees recognized me. Acknowledged me. Remembered. Had the courage to share. And I will take those words that have stuck with me for days (and I am sure for weeks and years to come) as a tremendous comfort.

And today I will write for those not in the Secret Society so that perhaps you WILL do this for someone else. Say their name~ acknowledge their motherhood. It would mean the world~ at least it did for me.

Thank you so very much- on behalf of all of us from the "Secret Society".

Hugs~
L

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Letters to Andrew~


I have kept journals since early elementary school... probably since I could write. Looking back at those journals I have watched as my handwriting has changed and grown. I've read of frustration and my broken heart to joy and pure happiness. But of all the journals I have kept, the one I have read back the most is that early journal that I wrote for Andrew.

On the day he and Jonasen were born, I wrote their story. I picked up my pen and I wrote and then I closed the book- closed my feelings. I still don't know how I survived those early years without him but when I look back to my writing, I get a glimpse into what it was like.

I first picked up my pen again on February 15th exactly five months after I lost him. On that day, I wrote the first of many letters to my son and so began a healing process. I wrote in letters to him but my words often turned to prayers to God. During that time~ sharing my feelings with Andrew~ with God I learned more about myself than I ever would have imagined.

I walked down that road tonight.
Read his journal.
Wondered what he is doing right now, at this moment with his sister.
And though I don't know the answer to that, or many things, I do know what I was feeling this time 7 years ago.

7-9-04
Drew~
I was watching your brother today. He was making me laugh and all of a sudden it popped into my head- he's a twin. I don't know why.
I miss you so much. I go to your monthly meetings and I think of you every day. A couple times recently moms on an email group that I know have written that their survivors sometimes have behaviors that lead them to believe that they're missing their twin. I haven't noticed that with your brother- this is what I think...
When you left us, I was so heart broken and though I still find myself in tears, I have a peace in knowing that YOU are safe! I feel that and I know it's strange but I felt it the moment they pulled you from me. You were safe. You are safe and I'll see you again. I feel you. Hear my words and know my heart. I don't need a "sign" or proof- it's something that's in me- that I know- like my faith or my love for you, Jonah and Daddy and of course now "Sweet C". I think your brother must know you're safe too. Sometimes he wakes up crying but he's easy to soothe. Your daddy was feeding your brother today and he was spitting out his food (he thinks that's so funny) and your dad said to him, "I bet your brother wouldn't have spit his food at me." I know he was joking but it broke my heart because I'll never know. I wish I could know what you'd look like now. I hope I can see that in heaven. I love you so much baby!
Always,
Your Mommy

7-11-11
Dear Andrew~
Today- seven years later- I know that your brother is OK. I know that he thinks of you but he is not missing you any more than your sister (or one day your other brothers will when they understand more about your story). You were and always will be a member of this family and as long as I live I will say your name. I am your mother and still not a single day has gone by that I haven't thought of you.
I looked back at some of your journals today and I am so happy to read that your Dad mentioned you seven years ago and I love that he mentions you still. And today I am remembering that peace~ and living in it still and hoping that it reaches others. I know that I will see you again- That I will walk right up to you and say your name, and you'll turn to me and say mine, "Mom". I can't wait to feel you in my arms once again.
I love you so very much.
Always~
Mom

Write it down.
Write to them.
Your words will find them and in times your words will find you- and teach you.
There is so much to learn still.

Yes, they left to soon~ but they left so much and some lessons are still there waiting to be found.