Sunday, July 3, 2016

Shocked at Mass today

There was a family in the pew behind me at Mass today with a small child and a baby who I'd guess was about 14 or 15 months old. The little guy had a noisy couple of minutes and dad was trying to quell the noise. Then someone came over to them, stepped into the pew and chastised them. I couldn't make out everything being said. But the family responded by getting up and leaving in the middle of the Mass. I was not expecting that reaction.

I'm going to skip my commentary. It's well known with a simple search of my blog my thoughts and they have not changed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Pastors, your Mother's Day stuff is nice and all buuut....

I have friends who skip church for Mother's Day because of you.
After being told she's less of a woman by people who were supposed to be on her side, your decision to have mothers stand and be honored or prayed over by the congregation has driven her decision. Even 50 some-odd years later, my father still grieves the loss of a child, and then the other loss 30ish years ago. My FATHER, a man, who is supposed to apparently be stoic and push aside *his* grief. My own husband is having a difficult time of it himself. My best friend's grandmother had a loss in the 60s, and the doctor was anything but compassionate toward her. She told him to never say that crap again and he was not to return to her room. He returned the next day with more of the same junk, and she threw a bar of soap at his head. She is 50+ years out from that loss, it still burns with an indescribable ache, and she was one of the ones who suffered in silence all these years. Women like her are why I have my big mouth and why I refuse to keep it shut.

So, pastors, get creative. Get compassionate. Get your congregation involved. Get them talking. Get them to understand the pain. Get them to show love to the women with empty arms, even if they also have full ones.

I will keep it simple and share these links with you, because they say it so much better than I could or would.

I am NOT saying skip the celebrating of mothers. I am saying shift a couple gears and rework it. I'm saying that while you're celebrating mothers in May and fathers in June, that you plan for October to honor the reason parents grieve too. I'm saying you've got noble intentions, and there is room to make it better. Believe me, word will get out that you do something awesome for the moms-of-a-different-sort, and you will build your community and have a group of women who are going to wrap their arms around newly-grieving families so that they do not suffer in silence like my friend's grandmother and countless other women, or like my father and husband.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Putting yourself in someone else's shoes

In an online loss support group, someone shared that they were told by a guy that nobody chooses to experience loss, but they DO choose how they respond to it. He just failed to comprehend how we simply can not just not-cry when there's a reminder. I suggested she put it in terms a guy who has never experienced a loss, or held a sister, wife, mother, girlfriend, or other female in the throes of grief over losing her child would understand. 
"Tell him to imagine getting punted in the nads so hard they may never recover, and he’s not allowed to cry, yell, double over in pain, wince, or even blink twice about it. He still has to go to work like normal digging a trench to lay conduit, or climbing a ladder to paint a vaulted ceiling, or pushing a lawnmower. And that he isn’t allowed to respond to it at all. He can’t even talk to his doctor, significant other, or minister about it. And then add to it, all his buddies tell him to man up and suck it up buttercup, it’s just a kick in the nads and he can still have sex." 

I'm sure watching a few episodes of Jackass might be a fair start in getting someone like that to gain any insight. Somehow, I suspect people like that will never get a clue till life slams them in the back of the head with a clue-by-four.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How a mug & spoons help me manage my grief and my life

The day I went to the ER for a suspected miscarriage, my husband wandered the hospital halls after the ultrasound to find food, and stopped at the gift shop. Once we returned to the room after the scan, and the medical staff exited, I told him I did not see a heartbeat on the screen. He claimed hunger, which I knew was true because I heard his stomach growl, and it was well past his usual lunchtime. He came back a while later with a cafeteria cup (probably containing sweet tea) and this mug. He was trying to cheer me up and be a little funny. Unfortunately, the mug stinks at keeping coffee warm enough for very long, and it has a chip in the rim from someone else leaving it in the van. I pulled it from the cabinet for sentimental reasons. I didn't want it broken in circulation. To me, it is more than *just* a mug. It is one of the very few tangible items I have connected to the very brief existence of our Francis.

In the Healing After Pregnancy Loss group I joined, we talk about spoons. It is related to the blog post about The Spoon Theory. One day, I was feeling frustrated with the poor reconciliation of my to-do list versus the got-it-done list. My upline director suggested I change how I view the spoons. Instead of using up the spoons, decide how to spend them and what kind of investment will be to spend them. I had a HUGE moment of AH-HAAAA!

I went to the box of plastic cutlery, and I grabbed a handful of spoons out of it. I then found a sharpie marker that actually wrote clearly and worked. I labeled the majority of the spoons. I did leave several blank for those days the grief visits, the stress plays hard in the day, the work of the day wears on me. But the others, I gave a name. As I use a spoon, I turn it handle up in the mug.

  • Crafting - because I haven't done any in a long time, and it is something I want and need to do. Most days my brain just can't fire the pistons correctly for the simplest of knitting though. It's there when I'm ready for it.
  • 31 - I have two of these for my business, so that I intentionally touch my work daily - one for the fun stuff, one for the must-do stuff.
  • Schlepping people - I have to get people places on time and some days, it pulls a lot out of my resources to do it. But it has a name on a spoon because it is a must-do and it helps my family.
  • Reflection - time at the end of the day to journal and end the day on a positive note.
  • Time with my spouse- probably the most important spoon in the bunch. He is incredibly busy and stretched, and we must connect regularly so we avoid drifting in opposing streams.
  • D.W.O.P.S. - Dealing With Other People's Stuff (or the expletive as it were). When it's not just a friend venting, and you find yourself  getting sucked into it. Or your kids are just at each other's throats all day and you're wearing thin of hearing it or refereeing it.
  • Morning - Mornings take a bit out of me because I'm not a morning person, and there's a time crunch, and coffee isn't always hitting the brain fast enough. 
  • Self Care - bathing, grooming, even getting out of my pajamas on those heavy-spirit days.
  • Home Care - because a tidy space blesses everyone, and some days I struggle to even move a dish to the sink or dishwasher.

This is how I sometimes have to manage my days, and manage my grief. I'm a visual tactile person, and some members of my family do not always comprehend the burden on my soul or how it affects my ability to be the matriarch of my household. They can look at the spoons and see how many are available with the handle still down. I have reached a point that I don't need to use the mug of spoons to manage my days as regularly, but it's a gentle reminder to me that life must keep moving, and that there is space and spoons available to allow the grief to visit me for a few minutes, and spoons that are an investment in my life and that of my family.
This coffee mug is not just a silly mug to me. It was a gift from my husband, an attempt to demonstrate his pain to me where he can not articulate it, and his way of sharing humor to kiss my heartache that exists in a way he can not touch. This mug holds a value to me that only someone who has grieved a heavy loss and holds a tangible item related to that situation can fathom. To the rest of the world, it's *just a mug*. If you have a loved one who has such an item, please be respectful about it. When you treat it as an ordinary object, while it has special meaning to them, what you do is disrespect their grief and mourning. Every loss is difficult, regardless of the circumstances. Losing a child though, is a suffering that is more than a loss of the life, but the future that life would have had and the role others would have played in the child's story.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Horror and heartbreak

Please keep my family in your prayers. As I sit her mourning my own loss last summer, and the due date that never came, a relative of mine is mourning the tragic loss of both parents in different ways this past week. I am completely stunned, and my heart breaks for this branch of my family, suffering so very much. Prayers for peace to come to those left behind and for the eternal repose of the deceased.
If you are able to help them bury their matriarch, please consider helping in what ever amount you can.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I shouldn't

I shouldn't be sitting here drinking this wine.
I shouldn't be able to fit into this pair of pajama pants.
I shouldn't be able to walk normally.
I shouldn't be able to move without worrying about my hip dislocating.
I shouldn't be able to move my arms without whacking my engorged breasts.
I shouldn't be able to see any part of my body from the midsection down to the floor.

But I can, and I am, and I do.

I should've been a shuffling, waddling, fat husk fielding a million questions.
I should've been using a plastic bag on my driver seat to get in and out of my van.
I should've been worrying about choosing a name.
I should've been reconfiguring car seats.
I should've been having heartburn.
I should've been having insomnia.
I should've been excited and nervous.
I should've been worrying about juggling a toddler and a newborn.
I shouldve been perhaps even actually holding a squishy new baby.

Instead, I am forging a new normal that doesn't include any of that.
Instead, I regularly find myself counting how many spoons I have left to get through the rest of the day.
Instead, I found myself having the sensations of a phantom pregnant belly as I laid in bed this afternoon.
Instead, I cry in the hot shower as I look down and see my frame and body all the way down to my feet.
Instead, I am staring at my fertility awareness app on my phone, and seeing that the only thing due this week is my menstrual cycle - and *not* my baby.  Oh, mind and body, you are cruel playmates this week.
Instead, I'm praying to get through the next week without as much heavy grief as I had nearly 7 months ago.
Instead, I am sitting here, mournful and sad, completely depleted of energy.
Instead, I am drafting plans for an annual collection for a charity in honor of Francis' due date that never came.
Instead, I carry the weight of a heavy heart of miscarriage and feeling alone in my grief event though I know I am not.
Instead, I am finding myself comforting other mothers of angels in their journey, just as others walked with me in mine. It is a supremely sucktacular sisterhood have to join.
Instead, I argue with platitudes intended to comfort when all they do is cut deeper and sharper.
Instead, I fight with myself to find silver linings, hidden graces, and the what-ifs that I couldn't do if I had continued that journey.

Instead, I get to say things like "If a girl has to endure the suckage of mourning the loss of a child, she deserves the kind of love and support I got."

And instead, I know not everyone does. And they shouldn't get anything less than I received.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Miscarriage and child loss grief resources

I am aiming to find an organization to direct funds toward that aids people in times of child loss. I was exploring my options as a fundraiser, and where to responsibly direct support to help others. In asking friends about the idea, someone sent me this link. I have not fully explored every link contained on this page, but if it helps anybody else, it's worth it to share the link.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Go Pink AND Blue for October

October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, and has been seen abbreviated as PAIL in some places.
There is a link going around crackbook with the headline saying something about how it is important that Mark Zuckerberg is being open and honest about the miscarriages he and his wife had. I shared the link with this blurb of commentary. I share it here, because at any point I may accidentally make a public post not so public, and the sentiments need to be shared where possible. The awareness ribbon for this is half pink, half blue. There's a hashtag going around social media, #goPINKandBLUE related to the awareness campaign.

"Talking about miscarriage should not be taboo, nor should it bring criticism and shame. No one should suffer alone or in silence in the wake of a pregnancy loss. I didn't, and that was only because I have amazing people in my life. They're amazing because I gave them the opportunity to demonstrate as much having reached out and shared with them. If you know someone who had a prior loss, or is going through a loss, do not be silent. Even if you only say "ugh, that sucks", that is better than no words, or worse, the crappy attempt at platitudes. When we're in the throes of grief, we do not want to hear "God has other plans" "you're young, you can try again", "it wasn't really a baby", "get over it already", or any number of things that are well meaning but actually hurt more. God may have other plans, but it still sucks monkey butt. Some people try and try and try and babies don't come easily to them. It was definitely a baby to that parent, because it sure as hell wasn't a puppy. There is never any getting over it. My 89 year old father still mourns the miscarriage losses of 50 & 30 years ago. And he wasn't even the one who was physically pregnant.
If my annoying people by talking about my miscarriage helps even one person to feel less alone in their grief, then you'll just have to suck it up and be annoyed about it. I don't keep talking about it to get sympathy. I talk about it because it not only helps me heal, but it helps someone else to just know they are not alone in their sorrow."

Forever My SweetPea is offering a free awareness ribbon graphic through October 14, 2015. This project is an amazing work of kindness, and I know it is taking a chunk of extra time and effort for them to do this for those of us with angels. If you have a moment, thank them for their generosity.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A month seems so long yet is not

As I got dressed for church, I grumbled. I could not just wear jeans today, since I was scheduled as Lector. Most of the pants I have are either too small, or too big. Or they fit my waist, but my hips and thighs make them too tight. Or they fit my hips and leave so much gap that it would look crappy with all the fabric bunching in a belt. Such is the life of having a ghetto bootie. Dammit, I should be fitting in to that pair of maternity pants, not trying to figure out if this regular pair might fit. They should ALL be too small! None of these pants are supposed to fit. I am supposed to be seeing a little 14/15 week bump and lamenting that nothing fits because there is a mini human in the making who is causing me to grumble about my wardrobe. I huffed as I settled on the purple striped dress. I was running out of time to look for anything else, it was appropriate for church, and it fit.
It was not till I was about to walk out the door, that I realized I was wearing the same dress I was wearing 5 Sundays ago. And the same shoes were on my feet. The only difference was the undergarments, and that was only because the ones I wore 5 weeks prior were too big for me now.
Then my friend came by with a shawl she knitted for me, made out of the same yarn as the tiny miniature blanket and hat she made while we sat vigil over a month ago. It is a beautiful blue, with beading, and lace, and a lot of love in it. She said it was so that I would have a warm hug when I needed it. I knew she was making it, but had not seen the pattern. She wouldn't have posted the project in her Ravelry project page because she knew I might run the chance of seeing it before she gave it to me. I tucked it into my bag because I wanted to show it to anybody who would listen, and I might need a hug.
I arrived at church early enough to catch any instructions from the sacristan, and glance over the Prayers of the Faithful. If you are not Catholic, this is the part where the congregation responds to prayer intentions with "Lord, hear our prayer". I was stopped cold at the 3rd line. That one was for people in grief. I asked the eucharistic ministers for extra prayers during that portion of Mass. I was afraid I would lose my composure at the ambo in front of the congregation. I sought out Father J to ask him to send up extra prayers and shared my concern. I got through it with a cracked voice and I  could feel the prayers bolstering me, cheering me on with a quiet "You can do this. Keep going." I went to my seat but did not stay there but a few seconds. I escaped to the conference room to cry because I could not hold it in any longer. It took me several minutes to regain my composure and return to the sanctuary. I could see Father J was relieved that I was back. 
After Mass, my daughter said that she heard my voice crack and she immediately looked at Fr J, and he was about ready to continue for me if I wasn't able. I was also greeted by a couple friends asking what was going on with me. I told them. I had a miscarriage at the end of July. It has been a tough month. One of these friends has always told me I need to stop saying "upright and breathing" as a response to someone asking me how I am doing. My answer to that is if I'm having a craptastical day, I am not lying by saying "fine" when I am in fact not fine. She argued that it was speaking something other than gratitude or joy into the world. Today I told her that it was perfectly acceptable to say "upright and breathing" because I am just *not* fine, well, dandy, or good. Some days I'm barely surviving. 
I came home, changed clothes and just crawled into bed. I didn't even greet my husband. I was just on the verge of tears. He found me a few minutes later, asking if I was mad at him. I related the gist of things and bed surfed most of the afternoon. I could not muster the energy to do anything. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and it was taking a physical toll on me. I fell asleep a while later, and when I woke up, my husband was making soup and grilled cheese for dinner. Once again he is picking up my slack and taking care of me. I don't know where he is with his grief or mourning, but I do know that he wants me to just be ok, and when I am not, he does what he can to at least bolster me. I am in awe of how much he pours his love in to me and just wants me well. He will tell you he is not good with words. Sometimes he has said things that did not help me in my grief, although well-intended. But his actions speak volumes to me. And I don't know how long it will take till I don't need to rely on those little actions so much to get through the moment. I only know exactly how much they mean to me when I am at a weak spot.

Friday, September 4, 2015

You look good for .... what?

In the past several weeks, I have repeatedly heard "You look good for having five kids."

whut tha whut??

First of all, what *SHOULD* I look like for having five children? Well, 6 when you count angel Francis. Seriously. What is anyone expecting? Frumpy? Dowdy? Do they expect that I'll be dressing like the stereotypical evangelical homeschooling matron? Do you expect that I am supposed to look like I just rolled out of bed in my clothes from yesterday like a slovenly teenager from a 1980s movie?

Stop saying that to people.

Either we look good, or you look silent. Full stop. When people say to me "You look good for having 5 kids", I have taken to snarkily responding with "How about I just look good, period." What people see about me is physical appearance, and it is one that people want for themselves or they hate me for it. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I. CAN. NOT. HELP. THE. PHYSICAL. PERSON. I. HAVE. Do not hate me for winning the genetic lottery, because it comes with caveats. My grocery bill will forever look like I'm feeding a herd of teens. My clothing is difficult to fit properly because of curves, a long rise, big feet, and broad shoulders, and what is available in stores is not always appropriate for my age.

What you don't know or care to know is that I am not the picture of health. I have weak core that my chiropractor has been nagging at me for 6 years to rebuild. I have not done it. I own my laziness, and I make no excuses such as time, energy, etc. I just do not do it. I know this. I admit every second of it. What you don't know or care is that I have a high metabolism, and if I skip meals, I get migraines. It has gotten worse the older I get, too. What you don't know or care to know is that I think people who say "You look good for....(insert qualifier)" are problematic. You need to know and you need to care about that last one.

When you tell me I look good for having 5 kids, what you are telling my best friend with 5 kids is that she's fat, slovenly, ugly, a pig, or she is lazy. A lazy day for her still outpaces my busy ones by a million miles. She battled an eating disorder and STILL fights it daily as an adult. She has diastasis recti which is only going to be corrected by surgery because pregnancy really did a number on her and physical therapy has only done so much to improve it. When you tell me I look good for having 5 kids, what you tell another friend of mine is that she is inadequate for not being able to lose all that weight after just one baby. She has PCOS and some other issues, not that it is any of your business. Maybe it needs to be your business, so you can educate yourself on the challenges of that situation. What you're telling another friend who doesn't have any children is that she is not enough because she's overweight, and has no excuse for it since she didn't have any kids yet.

What you're telling me when you say I look good for having 5 kids is that I am doing something wrong. You're telling me that I shouldn't "qualify" to look this way, or that I shouldn't "qualify" to have 5 kids. Nope, no way. I don't need to qualify for either equation. I am raising kids to be independent, capable of functioning without me in the adult world, and to have the kind of work ethic to be a leader that gets stuff done. THAT is what matters most. Am I proud of the way I look? Yes, I am. There is no shame in the way I look. I know I am easy on the eyes, but I also know that could change in a BLINK with one momentary turn of the world. Do I enjoy getting compliments? Absofreakinlutely! Who doesn't!?!?!

I do enjoy the reactions I get when people learn I am the mother of many, and that my oldest can make the beer run for me, or that I am nearing age 40. It's fun. It gives people something to think about in terms of looks being deceiving. It boosts my mood when I hear a compliment. But a compliment should not come with a qualifier, or at the cost of someone else. Lift up someone's soul without exception, qualification, or exclusion. Do it because it is the right thing to do, or because someone's spirits just need the boost. Don't do it because your expectations and their reality are in different lanes.