How to show support to a child loss survivor

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I’d like to preface this post by touching on 2 separate but very important points.

First, I was somewhat reluctant to broach this topic. Although I’m a repeat loss mom and I’ve lived through child loss a number of times my opinions on the topic are my own and they are very much shaped by my political, religious and spiritual beliefs. As a result, what I perceive as supportive may not be comforting to everyone and vice versa. So, please, when reading this keep in mind that there is not a one size fits all approach to supporting families facing loss – it really really really depends on the person and their unique belief system.

Second, within this post you’ll find examples of things that were said to me over the years. I do not believe for one second that any of these statements were said with any malicious intent yet they were painful and hurtful to me while I grieved and so I will explain how they were perceived by me. I doubt (I’d like to believe anyway) that hurtful, malicious and ill meaning things would ever be said intentionally to a grieving family and as a result please do not be offended if you’ve ever uttered these words yourself. I do not for one minute believe that anyone means to be anything but supportive in these situations – sometimes though,  words can be perceived far differently than they were intended.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I’m sorry for your loss. At least, you know you can get pregnant.

This statement was repeated to me more times than I can count and every time I heard it my heart would break open again. The thing is, getting pregnant doesn’t guarantee a baby. In my case getting pregnant wasn’t the hard part (until that became a problem too) – staying pregnant was. The odds were not in my favor and I was very open about my issues so attempting to comfort me by reminding me that I was fertile served only to remind me that my body was very efficient at ending pregnancies.

The at least part is also important to mention. There really isn’t any “at least” when talking about loss. “At least you lost this pregnancy early”, “at least you weren’t full term”, “at least you’re still young”. All these statements are loaded and quite hurtful – there is never an at least.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Take comfort in knowing it was God’s plan.

This is a very controversial one. I was raised between the worlds of orthodoxy and Catholicism. Having one parent from each faith meant that although they held very different beliefs they each believed that God was our creator. I was never (still am not) very religious but I do believe in God and as a consequence I struggled with my own belief system a lot over the last few years. I was angry and questioned why God would punish me in such a horrible way? Why would He bless me through conception only to take my precious babies away? As a result, when family and friends tried to comfort me with statements about it being God’s plan I was often quite angry because it was hard to understand why I was chosen to suffer this way while others were not.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: It’s for the best! Clearly there must have been something terribly wrong with the baby.

Often times pregnancies end for no known reason. In my case my losses were caused by structural issue within my uterus. My condition is actually considered a müllerian defect which I was born with so my 3 losses had everything to do with me and not the babies. Having said that, a child lost to issues like mine or to chromosomal anomalies is still a a lost child.  I cannot speak for those parents who’ve lost children to genetic issues but this statement is so incredibly difficult to digest. Even IF there would have been something terribly wrong with any of my babies, losing them would still never be okay.

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Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: I know how you feel. I lost my dog who was like a child to me.

Pets are members of the family aren’t they? We’ve got a total of 3 cats and a dog co-habitating with us here at TTBH and although I love my furbabies dearly losing a child is simply not the same thing. I don’t for a second believe that a statement like this is made with the intention of comparing the losses. Instead, I feel like it’s an attempt to find a common ground by sharing grief. Yet, every time this was said to me (and yes it was said more than once) I couldn’t help but wince – losing a child is just not the same as losing a pet. Period.

Do Say: I’m so sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: You’ll have another baby and it’ll make the pain go away.

At some points on my journey when I was deep in depression facing more bad news than good I naively thought there might be a little truth to this statement. Sadly, having Margs has actually amplified my grief for my lost babies. As I watch her grow I catch myself questioning what the other babies would have been like. Would they have similar personalities? Enjoy the same things? Look similar? Each baby is unique, loved and special and as a result having another child does not fill the void left by a lost baby.

Do Say: I’m sorry for your loss.

Don’t Say: Everything happens for a reason.

What possible reason could justify so much heartache? Why are some families blessed with children while others are fighting to bring one into the world? I never quite understood the meaning behind this statement and unfortunately it’s probably the most common one I’ve heard over the last 5 or so years. There is no justifiable reason to make loss okay. Losing a baby is never okay. Never.

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A few tips for showing support to grieving parents:

  • Just say “I’m sorry”. That’s truly the only thing you can say.
  • Don’t burden yourself with trying to make the parents feel better. You simply can’t. Acknowledging the loss and the grief is enough. You can’t fix this – only time can heal.
  • Grieve with mom and dad. Fathers are often forgotten when it comes to pregnancy loss. They grieve too.
  • Offer to help if you can. Cook a meal, drop off groceries offer to babysit older children. Every lit bit helps and is so so appreciated.
  • Give the family time. Child loss is incredibly difficult and it takes time to find a new normal. Your friend or family member will likely never be the same but will eventually find a new sense of normal. Be patient – they are battling and living one of the most traumatic experiences life can offer.

 

 

 

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Life behind the blog – a day in the life at 15 months

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Good morning!!!

Hope your week is going well so far!

Some of my very favorite blog posts are ones that give me a peak into what a bloggers day to day life is like. I guess it’s part curiosity and part wanting to compare my own lifestyle to others that make them so fun and entertaining to read. So, today I’m giving you a peak at what my life is like behind the blog – a day in the life sort of post.

Please be warned that my days are pretty boring. As a stay at home mom I thrive when Margs and I follow a routine so there’s absolutely nothing spectacular going on most days. Generally, we stick to the same routine to keep things flowing well.

Here we go:

6:56 am – Margs wakes up for the day. Mer and I snuggle with her in bed for about 10 minutes before we take her downstairs into the living room. Mer changes her diaper while I put on a strong pot of coffee.

7:30 am – Mer and I enjoy our coffee and chat about the days plan while Margs’ plays independently in her pack n play. Currently she’s obsessed with puzzles – she can play with the pieces for hours. Mer and I usually discuss things like dinner plans, errands and any pressing issues we need to take care of.

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8:00 am – I give Margs her breakfast – I rotate between french toast, scrambled eggs and whole wheat waffles. She usually has one of those with a yogurt and a few pieces of fruit. While she eats I check my email, WordPress notifications and do other blog related things like answering comments, emails or twitter notifications.

8:15 am- Margs drinks some water while watching some cartoons. In the meantime I unload the dishwasher, wipe down the counter tops, sweep the floor and tidy up after breakfast.

8:30 am – Margs and I read books, play with puzzles and practice walking running.

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9:00 am- Margs gets a morning bottle and hopefully takes a nap.

9:30 – 11:30 am – I pull some ground beef out of the freezer to make a meatloaf for dinner. I open the package and let it rest on the counter to defrost. I start laundry, clean the powder room and fold a batch of clothes that were in the dryer. I then sit down and and catch up on blog reading with a cup of tea. At around 11, I make Margs’ lunch – minestrone soup with egg noodles is on the menu today.

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12:00 pm– Margs and I eat lunch.

12:30 pm – I get Margs dressed in her winter gear and we head out for a walk. She’s not a huge fan of her stroller but once we get moving she settles down and enjoys the ride.

1:30 pm – Back at home. After undressing Margs and putting her snow gear away I prepare a bottle and we snuggle on the couch while she drinks. Today she decides she doesn’t want to nap.

2:00 pm – I work on dinner while Margs zooms around the house. I take breaks to chase her and she runs around giggling.

2:30 pm – Margs and I have a tea party, play with dolls and play with more puzzles.

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2:45 pm – Margs is extra fussy and should nap but wont. I put on a Teletubbies episode on Youtube so she can relax.

3:15 pm– She’s a little less fussy and we get back to playing. I haul her upstairs to put away the laundry. She watches me from her pack n play in our room

3:30 pm –  I put her winter gear back on so we can play  in the driveway. Her “friends” get home around this time and she loves “playing” with them.

4:00 pm – We’re back inside – I pop dinner into the oven and give Margs a snack (Cheerios and a slice of pear) While dinner cooks we play with crayons. She hasn’t quite understood that she needs to color with them – she continues to try and eat them.

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4:15 pm– Margs pitched all the crayons on the floor. I pick them up and she laughs. I put her on the carpet with a bunch of toys and she plays alone. I check on dinner.

4:30 pm – Margs is getting fussy, she’s likely hungry but dinner isn’t ready yet. We play with her giant rubber ball to pass some time. She loves when I throw the ball up in the air and it hits the ceiling.

4:45 pm – I put Margs in her high chair and I give her some veggies that were left over from the night before. She’s really hungry and getting more and more upset.

5:00 pm –  I pull the meatloaf out and slice Margs a piece. I teach her to blow on her food when it’s too hot.

5:30 pm – Margs has finished eating. I clean up her high chair and the floor around her.

5:45 pm – I give Margs a bath and wash her hair which makes her really upset. She splashes water everywhere.

6:00 pm – Mer gets in and we sit and eat our dinner. Margs sits in her high chair and eats her dessert – usually a piece of fruit.

6:30 pm – Mer makes Margs a bottle while I load the dishwasher and clean the kitchen. I collect bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers from all over the house so they can be sterilized. They read books and cuddle before bed.

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7:00 pm – Margs is asleep in her cot.  Mer comes back downstairs and makes sure the baby monitor is positioned correctly. We sit on the couch and catch up on our day. Mer always asks me “did Margs do anything new today?”.

7:45 pm – Margs is sitting up in her cot crying. I head upstairs and try to soothe her back to sleep. She isn’t having it.

8:00 pm – Margs is back to sleep but on the couch with us. We turn down the t.v so we can hear what we’re watching (The Kindness Diaries) but not wake her up.

8:30 pm – Mer carries Margs back up to her cot. We’re crossing our fingers that she wont wake up again. I sit behind the computer and start drafting a new post for the blog.

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9:30 pm – Mer tells me he’s off to bed. I opt to keep writing a little while longer because I’ve got a bunch of ideas I want to get down before I forget about them completely. He kisses me goodnight and heads upstairs.

11:00 pm – I shut down the computer, close all the lights, check that all the doors are locked and head up to take a shower before bed.

11:30 pm – I crawl into bed and cross my fingers that Margs will have a good night.

12:00 am – Margs wakes up screaming. Soothing her isn’t working so I carry her into our bed. She falls asleep quickly and we sleep snuggled together until morning.

When do you squeeze in blogging time?

 

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Have courage and be kind

 

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Reach out to someone who needs you.

Send a kind email to someone who needs a little sparkle in their day.

Compliment someone randomly without wanting anything in return.

Buy a friend a cup of a coffee just for being an awesome friend.

Leave your partner a post it note telling them why you love them.

Read your kiddo an extra bed time story.

Enjoy the moment with your family. The laundry can be folded later.

Say hello to a complete stranger.

How have you been kind today?

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What surprised me most about being a stay at home mom

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When Margs was born I felt like it was the first time I could really breathe in a long long time. I spent my whole pregnancy holding my breath and crossing my fingers for just one more day, one more week and one more month. By some miracle my cerclage kept me pregnant and we welcomed a 40 week (!!!!!!!) miracle into the world on her due date.

I spent so much time focused on getting her here that I never considered what being a stay at home parent would be like- I didn’t care really, my only focus was getting that precious baby here alive.

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15 months later I’m reflecting on being a stay at home mom and I’m realizing that I don’t necessarily love it all of the time. I wish I did, but, I just don’t. Actually, there are days that I’m angry and resentful and frustrated and tired of it.

I feel horrible even writing these things because I’m a rainbow mom. A rainbow mom shouldn’t ever complain about anything parenting related because well, she’s a rainbow mom. I’ve struggled, I’ve faced repeat loss, I’ve had my heart broken in ways that only other loss mums understand and yet there are days that I struggle with being at home with this little girl I prayed and pleaded with the universe to have.

Some days I resent that my husband can head out into the “real” world and socialize with people and have adult conversation. Some days I resent that he gets a mental break from the constant attention, stimulation and energy Margs demands. Then, I snap myself back to reality and realize that he likely resents me for being home with her and getting the privilege to experience all those moments that he misses while he’s away.

Being home with a young child is difficult. Meeting her needs, caring for her, playing with her and watching over her are not the hard parts. The hard parts include the feelings of isolation, the loss of my identity outside of being “mom” and giving up my career (albeit temporarily).

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Some days I feel like I’m not “Jenny” anymore. I’ve become this version of myself that doesn’t know what do outside of caring for a baby. I’ve lost drive, passion and desire – things that fueled my life in very powerful ways before. Sadly, I’ve given up nearly all my favorite pastimes because quite honestly I’m just so tired that I don’t have the mental energy to devote myself to doing anything consistently. I used to love to read, exercise, knit and take photos – all things I’ve basically abandoned because the passion just isn’t there anymore.

In someways, I’ve lost myself to motherhood.

Life has become routinely robotic – Margs wakes – she gets fed, entertained and put down for a nap. Afternoon are the same. Evenings are the same. My days essentially look like carbon copies of each other.

I sometimes deal with an intense desire to go back to work. I was happy in my classroom. I loved what I did. I loved watching young minds analyze, interpret and question and sometimes I’m frustrated by the fact that I’ve given up so much. That sounds so incredibly selfish doesn’t it?

Having Margs was such a blessing. A blessing that I felt required me to give up my identity, lifestyle and career to cherish. We agreed early on that I’d stay home with her. Partly for financial reasons (childcare is expensive) and partly because we’re loss parents who maybe on some level feel like we have to do this to thank the universe for blessing us with such a precious gift.

On days where I’m feeling especially weighed down by it all I feel guilty. So so guilty. I should love this. I should love being home with her and love the opportunity to watch her grow. I should love these things because getting her here meant losing 5 other babies.

I hate that my perceptions of motherhood are tainted by so much grief and loss. I hate that I often second guess my own needs because somehow I’ve convinced myself that it’s not okay to be not okay and that to truly appreciate my gift I must love every inch of motherhood.

Motherhood is just hard. Staying home makes it even harder.

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I’m slowly working on being gentle with myself and acknowledge that it’s okay to feel this way sometimes.  I’m working on somehow finding an intersection between the analytic, spontaneous Jenny who I used to be and the run of the mill mom I often feel I’ve become.

Does parenting somehow alter who we are? Does it change us in ways that can sometimes make us feel unfulfilled?


Happy Maps Giveaway Winner

Congratulations to thenewmrsm2016!!!!

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Highs & Lows – Week of March 6th

Hey there! How has your week been treating you?

If you’re just popping in, here are the posts that I’ve written this week. If you have a minute please have a read. It’s also not too late to enter the Happy Maps giveaway happening here on TTBH. Contest closes on Sunday at 6pm, so if it’s something that interests you please head over and enter to win!

Highs

My mom is officially moved in. Work on the basement has finally ended and my mom is comfortable and settled in her new apartment one month ahead of schedule! We converted our basement into a 1-bedroom apartment for her to help reduce her living expenses. Her apartment turned out better than we’d expected and she’s loving being here to spend more time with Margs. Margs also realizes that bubbie now lives “downstairs” and bangs on the door to tell me she wants to head down for a visit. I’m also loving having her so close by because it’s really nice to be able to have adult conversation throughout the day.

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New blog opportunities. A few new blog opportunities have come my way over the last week and I’m excited! When I first decided to monetize the blog I really wasn’t sure where it would take me since my blog is so young and doesn’t necessarily have huge volumes of traffic. I’m thrilled that despite being in its infancy, TTBH is helping me generate a little revenue. I’m planning to write a post about my progress in the coming weeks so stay tuned for that.

Enjoying experimenting with the Keto Diet. I‘m still trudging along on my weight-loss journey. So far I’ve lost roughly 6 lbs which I’m really pleased about. I don’t necessarily feel that my weight loss is visible just yet but I do feel far more energized and in control of my eating habits. I’ve been experimenting with a really relaxed form of the Keto diet this week and although I probably wont stick to it long term (it’s far too rigid to be sustainable for me) it has been really eye opening to learn about carb content by keep track of my food choices with myfitnesspal. I really view this as a learning curve since I’m essentially reteaching myself about healthy choices and portion control.

Activities for Margs. Baby girl has had a busy week. After a discussion with Mer about my concerns that Margs might be bored we decided it was in her best interest to start taking part in some organized activities. She now goes to a play group on Mondays and Wednesdays and takes swimming lessons on the weekend. She really enjoys socializing with other children and has a great time playing, running and tumbling. Her excitement is just adorable and so is her tiny swim cap 😉

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Lows

Margs’ pediatrician appointment. We headed back to the pediatrician this week. Again, I left there feeling pretty defeated. Margs is a big little girl. She’s nearly 33 inches tall and weighs roughly 31 lbs. According to her growth chart she’s in the 97% for height and essentially off the charts for weight. Her doctor questioned her eating habits and made some suggestions that we think might help slow down her weight gain. Basically, I’ve been told to start giving her 2% WCM and to reduce her intake of yogurt. Her doctor wasn’t overly concerned but I’m an anxious mama and it makes me feel terrible that I’m potentially feeding my little girl an unhealthy diet. I’m doing my very best since she eats primarily vegetables and fruit but clearly we need to reevaluate and make adjustments.

Estimated Due Dates. Thursday was a rough day. March 9th was my estimated due date for my twin pregnancy and every year it seems to just creep up on me. By now, you’d think I’d be prepared for the roller coaster of emotions that come from facing a due date but nope – it hit me like a ton of bricks. I took a little break while Margs played with her grandma to have a good cry. It just feels like someone else’s life ya know? I should have 4 year old twins! My gosh, 4 years have flown by and my life is not at all what I imagined it to be. I’m insanely grateful for my precious baby girl but some days the burden of the past is just harder to deal with. March 9th was one of those days.

What are your highs and lows for this fine week of March 6th?

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