Monday, October 13, 2014

6 Months Later

Where has the time gone? I sit here pondering the events of the last 6 months and beyond. Sometimes it seems like it was all a dream and other days, like today, it all feels so close; as if I could reach out and touch her sweet face again. I've remained pretty quiet the last few months. I honestly didn't feel like there was much to say. Every time I sat down to type I was just blank. There was nothing there. It felt so strange to be feeling so much, yet not be able to put those feelings down into words. I knew when the time was right, I'd be able to get back what I loved doing most.

So much has happened since our sweet Charlotte was placed into our arms and then peacefully left this world. One of the things I have learned to do most is live again; to be happy and feel fulfilled in my life. I am still a wife and mother. Focusing on my boys and my home has helped me to see that I still have an amazing amount of purpose. Every day is different and some are more difficult than others but I do what I can to make the best of it. The first few months were unbearably hard. I wanted to crawl inside a hole and never come out. We all know that everyone's journey through grief is different and I am by no means a standard of how things should happen. I have been so beyond blessed and know that my journey has been a unique one.

The most amazing thing that has happened is we got pregnant again!! We are pleased to announce that we are expecting baby #2 on April 15th 2015. We knew that we wanted to have another child again soon and were amazed that it didn't take long at all. I am also amazed with the amount of healing that has taken place in my heart because of this baby. I feel my sweet angel still so close, letting me know that it's okay to be happy and excited about this pregnancy. I feel her excitement and joy for us and this new child as well. I know in my heart that she wouldn't want us to put our lives on hold because she is no longer with us physically. She is still very much a part of our lives and our family, carefully watching over us every day. I feel very strongly that she is preparing this spirit to come into our home as well.

As I enter my 2nd trimester and we remember our angel babies even more this Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, I am definitely lost in thoughts of the day Charlotte was born. I can still see her beautiful face as she was cradled in the arms of her Daddy. I watched her breathe and can still remember the moment I knew in my heart her little spirit had left her tiny broken body. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about those few short moments we had with her. I felt so numb as her tiny body was placed on my chest before we were wheeled out of operating room. She was still warm and soft and real. I couldn't hold onto her long enough. The time just felt so short. Even now, it feels like the softest memory of a dream; as if just waking up and it's still fresh in my mind. The touch of her delicate little fingers. The curve of her lips. The red in her eyelashes. My little girl is still very much alive in my heart. I carry her with me everywhere I go. I see her in my dreams and I feel her in the small tender moments of our lives.

I pray that no matter what life brings, I will always see Charlotte there with us, that I will always feel her as our family grows, and she will always be a part of the reflection of who I have become. As I look ahead to welcoming this new little one and celebrating Charlotte's birthday just shortly after, I feel peace. I know that God's hand is in my life. He is in the details. He is ever aware of my heart, my joys and pains, and my journey ahead. I am doing my best to trust Him and have faith that life is and will be......beautiful.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

There Is No "At Least....."

Everyone's path is different. People come in and out of our lives at various times for various reasons. Some remain lifelong friends and some are only there for a short time, and every once in a while a lifelong friend will become someone we don't know anymore. Yesterday was one of those days. Someone who has been a friend off and on throughout the years chose to walk away from me for reasons I don't understand, and probably never will. I do know that it was related to my daughter's death and how I am choosing to deal with it on a very public scale. I have never been one to sit alone and stew quietly in my mourning, pain, or emotions. I have always needed a support system and people I can count on. I feel that is a basic human need. Some only need a few, and some need as many as they can get. I have always been so open about Charlotte, her condition, and her death that it never occurred to me that someone would be offended by anything that I would say regarding her. I have never once lashed out in bitterness and anger at those who have supported and loved me, and feel that people (even when it may seem insensitive) only give what they can. They do their best to show sympathy, empathy, and compassion towards me and my family. They mourn WITH us and hate to see that we are hurting and miss our sweet angel so much.

Death is an emotional experience for anyone who has faced it in one way or another; whether that emotion is grief, anger, heartache, regret, emptiness, or just feeling numb. We ALL walk a different path when mourning the loss of a loved one. We all process and cope in the best (and sometimes worst) ways we know how to. No one, save Christ alone, truly knows what we are going through and what is in our heart of hearts. This can cause us to look and judge in ways that we don't expect. We may wonder why someone does what they do, or why someone would post something on Facebook, or why they may say the things they do, or act a certain way. It's not easy to understand what to say to someone who has lost a child. It's dang near impossible. The words of condolence and shows of support can be like walking through uncharted territory. I know that when my friend lost her baby days before her due date to a cord accident, I didn't know what to do or say other than to tell her that I loved her, my heart was broken for her, and that I was there for her if she needed me. Sometimes that's all we need; is to know that we are not alone, and that we won't be judged for how we grieve.

Yesterday was the 2 month mark of my sweet little Charlotte's tiny life and her unfortunate death. I knew that it was going to be hard day. I could feel it from the moment I woke up, not for reasons relating to her, but I had a lot on my plate and wanted to get it all accomplished. My husband had been out of town for 3 days for work and I had errands to run and a house to clean, and I was watching 2 little ones for a dear sweet friend while she tried to run her errands as well. It was to be a very full day. I was thinking of my girl and how the past 2 months and flown by, and felt like slow motion all at the same time. It felt so surreal. I was feeling good and looking forward to having my hubby home after being gone for so long. I was focused. Keyword WAS. It all came crashing down in 2 seconds flat. 

I posted a picture that said "My baby died. There is no 'At least...'". I felt that I related, yet expressed that we were so grateful that we had those precious 17 minutes with her. The comments that followed were something I never expected. A lifelong friend brought me to my knees with cruel, judgmental, and bitter comments. They were so filled with anger and hate that I couldn't even read them aloud. I handed my phone to my friend as my pulse raced and my hands started to shake. I watched her face as she read them. Her eyes filled with shock and disgust. I was told by this man (Yes! A man said all this!) to be grateful that my friends cared enough to say anything, that if I had peace them why the stick up my bum?, that I was just looking for a fight, and to get the eff over myself. I was stunned that someone who had literally watched me grow up could turn spew so much poison in my direction. I left my friend to watch our kids and went for a drive. I found myself standing in the rain at a park just watching the river roll by, tears streaming down my face asking God what the heck just happened. Comments from friends poured in defending me, appalled at this man's behavior. I was hurt and betrayed. My stomach turned and I felt sick. I didn't know what to do. It took me all day to decide, but I knew there was only one choice I could make.

Forgiveness. I'm not by any means a superhero, and have people in my life that I have struggled to forgive, and still feel like I haven't quite got there with. This was different. I knew that whatever was fueling his fire had nothing to do with me, yet after communication with him, knew that there was nothing I could do to make the situation better. His bitterness and resentment were driven by things from his life, and his family's past and I was just the girl who got the sharp end of the stick. He judged my grief process based on how public I was, saying that it was more courageous to be quiet about it. Let me tell you right now, how "quiet" you are has nothing to do with courage. Courage is handing your infant's lifeless body over to a funeral director. Courage is watching your daughter die in the arms or your spouse knowing you never got the chance to hold her while she was alive. Courage is carrying a child to term knowing you may have mere minutes with her. Courage is knowing that the journey ahead will change you completely and still facing every day life with the hope that maybe the Doctors are wrong. Courage is having faith that life will be beautiful again, that you will smile and laugh and feel happy. For someone to judge how you walk through your journey, how you survive without the child you love so dearly, how you manage to breathe when you feel like your world is collapsing in around you is not only shocking, but sickening. The only way I knew how to get rid of that feeling was to forgive him and let him walk away, knowing it was out of my hands.

Saying something supportive or sweet is better than saying nothing at all. You can only do what you know how to do when you have a friend that loses a child, and remember....everyone walks a different path. Grief has no time limit or handbook. It's like an ocean, and every day feels like you're learning to swim for the first time. We're all just trying to keep our heads above water.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The "In Between"

I have a great life. I have a loving husband, and beautiful children. I have a family that has supported me to the best of their ability throughout this journey that has been the last 6 months. I have friends that would drop anything to help me in whatever way they have the capacity to do.

Here's the problem. Anxiety on a level that I have never experienced before takes up a huge part of my mental process lately. I over obsess about details I can't control and worst case scenarios run through my brain on a consistent basis. My greatest fears are in the forefront of my mind more often than not. My husband leaves for the day and part of me wonders if he'll walk back through that very same door at night. My son goes to school and I worry if some psycho is going to bust in with guns and reenact one of the tragedies our country has been forced to witness in the last few years. I wonder if some sick pervert with a vendetta is going snatch him from the school yard and act out his twisted fantasies on my sweet innocent boy. When I sleep I relive Charlotte's life and death over and over trying to change something every time that will keep her here longer. I dream that my son is lost to me by some uncontrollable force, and that I've made the detrimental mistake to leave my husband and figure things out on my own. My nightmares wake me, almost always in tears, in the early hours of the morning catching my breath, desperate to make sure my husband is sleeping next to me and my son in the next room. I worry all the time, more than I feel like is normal; more than IS normal. I feel that I have so little control over my life right now, and that I can't protect my loved ones no matter how hard I try. I lay in bed at night thinking about EVERYTHING. I am so grateful that the anxiety meds my Dr gave me are helping, but it's just a temporary fix and every pill I take reminds me that there is something deeper at work here; something deeper I need to face. 

I'm not good at dealing with things that force me to confront my deeper issues. I feel completely alone in my struggles and my grief. The world doesn't revolve around me, but it sure hasn't stopped spinning just because my daughter died. I feel as though I am standing in a room full of people; completely invisible. I could scream at the top of my lungs and no one would hear me. My desire to get in a car and just drive is superseded by my love for my boys and the gratitude I have for how they keep me grounded. I know I can't just run away from my problems and my fears. Nothing will ever change, and it's the worst way to deal with anything. 

I have come to realize that everything I am feeling is tied to Charlotte's death. I couldn't save her. I couldn't protect her. It wasn't my job, but it SHOULD have been. I know that her sweet life was short for a reason beyond my control, yet it has made me feel like NOTHING is in my control, and that helpless feeling is breaking me apart from the inside out. I have always been one to feel comfortable with a certain amount of control in my life. I like things the way I like things. Having faith and letting go knowing that Charlotte's life was completely out of my control was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I still have faith and know that her plan was what it was for a reason. That doesn't do much for my anxiety. The residual feelings of helplessness that have encompassed the rest of my life can only be compared to drowning in 2 inches of water. I know it's not realistic. I know my worst case scenarios will most likely never happen, yet I feel completely overwhelmed nonetheless, and I'm terrified that there is no end in sight. 

I know in my heart that everything will be alright. Some how. Some day. Some way. This space in my heart that belongs to Charlotte will never be filled by anything else, but the ache will dull with time. The pain will subside and her memory will be a sweet reminder of a time in my life when things didn't go the way I expected. I will look back and wonder how I got through it all, and most of it won't even feel real anymore. The memories of the physical pain will die, and the moments that we had together will be the only thing that will be left in my heart and my mind. I'll think back to her tiny little life and it will feel like the blink of an eye. For now, I'm stuck in the "in between". I'm in between the brutal pain of my daughter's death and the life that is still waiting for me to live it. I just wish it didn't feel so thick and heavy. I'm trying so hard to move forward, but it feels like I'm walking with mud on my boots. 

I guess it's time to take them off and run barefoot for a while.

Monday, June 2, 2014

There Is No Break.

Finding your way through life is the everyday challenge we all face. One day at a time. I don't get a free pass because I'm a grieving mother. In fact, I feel that there is more expectation on me now than ever before. It feels like everyone is quietly watching and waiting for my "next move". Well, I have a surprise. There is no grand next move. My life is still my same old life it was before, I'm just trying to figure out exactly how to live that life.

There's something you don't know. I hate being emotional and feeling that I don't have control over my emotions. I hate being messy. I hate feeling sad and blue and hurty. I want to not feel this way. I want to feel happy again. I want to not feel anxious. I want to feel like I'm fulfilling my role in life. These are all things that I want. I want to have a day that "feels" normal. I don't want to fight my demons. I want them to see my heart breaking and say "Wow. Even I wouldn't want that. Let's give her the day off." But no, there is no "day off". There is no break. There's only early mornings with a sleepy eyed little boy, goodbye kisses with the man I love so dearly, loads of laundry and dishes to be done. All the while, I fight the urge to scream, shout, and drink something heavy. My life is beautiful and hazy. My heart is vulnerable and heavy, yet I keep moving. I can't give up and just quit. Many days I'd like to drown myself in Netflix until it's time for bed. My desire to function is driven by my obligation to my boys. Without them, who knows how I'd be handling everything?

I put my headphones in and try to drown out what I'm feeling, yet searching for music that speaks to my soul. John Mayer's "Slow dancing in a burning room" seems to be an anthem I can relate to, not on a relationship level, but visually. I feel like everything around me is going up in flames and all I can do is stare at the beauty of it. I'm numb, just stuck in the middle of the blaze.

These are the feelings I can't shake. Every day is something new. A new trigger. A new frustration. A new challenge. There is no break. The is only an emptiness that can't be replaced, a hole in my heart that was left by tiny footprints and 17 minutes of a perfect life.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Putting The Pieces Back Together

Grief. It's a tricky little bastard. It hits out of nowhere, and shows no mercy. Triggers you never expect make you feel like your world is collapsing in on you. Suddenly tears are running down your face, your heart feels heavy, and arms are still achingly empty.

I have become a member of a club that no one wants to belong to.

On April 13, 2014 Charlotte Rose Brooks was born at 4:48 pm. 17 minutes later she was gone, and nothing has been the same since. Everyone has something to say about it. Everyone has a bit of information and piece of advice when it comes to grief and how I should process "this". I smile, I listen, I take it all in. I do my best to be polite. Half the time I'm not even listening.

I live my life one day at a time, sometimes from moment to moment. I don't talk about Charlotte. It hurts too much. I don't like being a mess. I NEED to be functional. I'm still a wife and mother. I have things to do, and it's not like someone else can do them for me. I move throughout my day and catch glimpses of her picture on the wall. She's laying peacefully on my chest, her fingers delicately curled as if she's only asleep; as if there is still life inside her. It's the most perfect moment. Her tiny hand and footprints are memorialized hanging below her picture on the wall. I stop and think about how big her hands and feet were for her 3 lb 14 oz body. I love all her details and how they have stuck in my mind. Her imperfect little body was so perfectly beautiful. She was not fit for this world, but she fit perfectly in my arms, Her eyelashes, tinted with red like her father's beard, fringed across her eyes like feathery little fans. Her heart was on the wrong side, but it beat with purity. Her itty bitty toes were bent wrong, and her spine was twisted. There was no way that physically she would survive long, and we knew that. We expected it...... but nothing we expected could prepare us for what we felt, experienced, and went through.

This is what I live with every day. This is what goes on inside my head.

Most days are tear free, and relatively OK. I get the munchkin off to school and the hubby off to work without complications or separation anxiety. I do laundry, wash dishes, and watch Netflix. I try to focus on where my life goes from here and how to keep Charlotte's memory alive. I'm learning how to grieve and function at the same time, not having a clue how to make the two fit together. No matter what anyone has told me, this is a journey I have to find my own path on. My journey includes pink hair streaks, laughs with my friends, tears with my husband, and a hole in my heart that will never go away. I just try to breathe and feel a little less numb each passing day.