Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Right Where I Am: Two Years, One Month, One Week, One Day Later

Where am I?  

I'm still here.  

Further along the path, but still travelling.  

I guess I thought somehow I would have arrived by now. To where? I'm not sure. But still, there is no end in sight. Perhaps that's the point. When your baby dies, you're never done, never finished. Never done grieving. Never done remembering. Never finished wishing for the things that might have, almost, could have, would have, should have been.  

Things change over time, of course.  They always do.  

Except the fact that he's dead.  That never changes.


I'm in a much better place this year than when I wrote my post for Angie's project last year.  Having Kaia is a big part of that. Kissing a chubby baby tummy, holding a soft dimpled hand, feeding a tiny greedy mouth and waking up to a light-up-my-life smile is beyond wonderful. Kaia is all that and more, wrapped up in daughter-y goodness. 

But it's not just her presence that has pulled me out of the darkness.

A year ago, I feared she would die. I was afraid that I would have to burn another child. 

A year ago, I feared she would live, but with crippling health problems. It would be a miracle...but with so many strings attached.

That she is who she is, and does what she does, seems like so much more than I could have ever asked for. That she defied the odds and lives to tell the tale is the greatest gift I have ever received.  On days that are hard, where I'm tired or she's out of sorts, or life isn't as simple as it could be, all it takes is a reminder, and I'm grateful again. I know it could always be worse. Much worse.

The fact that she is miraculously alive, against all the odds, continues to astound and amaze me. That this time I got what I wanted, that she wasn't taken away, has healed a part of me that was so damaged when Aidan died. Having her alive and well has restored my faith in life's goodness.

So maybe it's no wonder that sometimes I feel I no longer deserve to be sad over Aidan's death.  He died, true...  But she lived! 

You got what you wanted. How much more can you ask for? You know that life isn't fair. Can't always get what you want. Be grateful. 

And I am.

But...(a small voice says). 

Other people have no dead children. 

No pregnancies that cripple them and place them on life's sidelines for months. 

No post-traumatic stress triggers (NICU, sick, possibly dying babies, sad, sad parents) that await them upon return to work after maternity leave. 

No reason to think that a next pregnancy would be anything but joyful anticipation.  

No reason not to have another, very much wanted (alive), sibling for their child.

I am so lucky...and not, all at the same time.


It's still all so complicated.  So awash in love and fear and longing.  

But now? That is utterly normal. 

Just life.  

It is what it is.

And I'm still here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


On vacation at the cottage this week! 

Kaia and I came up on Saturday with my parents and Brian stayed home for a few days to put in hardwood floor in our living and dining room. (Yeah for a carpenter husband!!) He finished Monday and drove up Tuesday to spend the rest of the week with Kaia and I, while my parents left to go back to the city. I was really excited to come to the cottage since we missed out on the entire 2011 season due to pregnancy and NICU time. I think I started last summer the same shade of pale I finished it, so I'm really pleased to get some nice weather while we're up here.

I am also really excited to share the cottage with Kaia. My grandparents bought this place when I was a year old, so many of my best childhood memories contain the cottage. It's really special to be able to share it with my daughter and see my parents take on the role that my own grandparents enjoyed so much. Kaia is having a good time and is finally starting to get good at sitting up on her own as well as adding a few more constants into her vocabulary. I've heard 'ba' and 'da' since we arrived here on Saturday.  I'm hoping 'ma' is next! 

Kaia continues to try new foods, including small bits of meat.  She had butter chicken at home last week and LOVED it. She's also had a bit of (soft) steak, but wasn't too keen on salmon. She will eat most fruit, so I thought she would love watermelon since it's so soft and juicy, but it was a no go.  Maybe it was too cold?  I'll have to try that one again some time.

Sleep is still a bit of an issue.  For most of Kaia's life we have held her after feeding while she falls asleep. This is somewhat of a time consuming and unsustainable bad habit, so I figured the change of scenery at the cottage might be a good chance to make a change. Since we arrived on Saturday, at every nap and bed time once Kaia's bottle is finished, she goes into her bed whether she is asleep or not. The cottage is very open and thus she can hear us walking around and talking even if she can't see us, and I was afraid this might hinder the process. So far, she hasn't seemed to mind too much, and I'm thinking it might even help for her to hear us nearby. It's taken as little as 5 minutes to as much as an hour and a half for her to fall asleep after being put to bed, but instead of crying she babbles to herself. I'm hoping we can keep this up at home. It would be a major improvement and definitely free up some of our evenings.  I might even get to work out once in awhile!

However, Kaia is still waking up at night usually twice, for a bottle. She eats before she goes to sleep at 7pm, then wakes around midnight for a bottle and then again around 5am, finally getting up around 8am. She seems to need these bottles as she does eat quite a bit (100-150 mls). Usually she goes back to sleep during the night fairly quickly...but on the nights she doesn't it's like torture. Kaia!!!! Pipe down...some of us are TRYING to sleep!  I'm really hoping the elusive 'sleeping through the night' is just around the corner, but who knows at this point.

I also have come to appreciate more of what it means to be a 'mom on vacation' when I arrived at the cottage and figured out 'wait a sec...I still have all the work that I do at home!" It's true that moms don't really get vacations. I still pump 4x a day. I still wash bottles every day. I still have dirty clothes and diapers to change, night time feedings, and an 18 pound kid to haul around and keep entertained. It's fun and I wouldn't trade it for anything...but not exactly what one generally pictures as 'relaxing'.  Different scenery, same chores.

It's nice to be away from the computer for a few days, but I hope to start my "What Aidan taught me" series when I get home. 

Hope all you Americans have a good Memorial Day weekend and hope all of you Canadians enjoyed May 24 long weekend as much as I did.

I'll end with a picture of Kaia, lounging at the cottage in her new kid-sized Muskoka chair.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mommy's Day

Feeling grateful this year.

Mother's Day 2010: Aidan had just died a few weeks before.  I was still bleeding out all that should be inside, nourishing him, keeping him healthy and safe. Instead I felt broken. Inside and out. I had failed him in the most basic way possible. 

It was a hard day.  

We had brunch at my mother's house to 'celebrate'.  We gave a framed photo of Aidan to my Mom as a present.  We didn't have energy to be creative. His photo was the most meaningful thing I had to share. She cried.  They weren't happy tears.  

It was a hard day.

Mother's Day 2011: Pregnant but with pPROM. Again. In hospital after 6 weeks of bed rest at home. Still not at 'viability'.  Coming up on the gestational age we lost Aidan.  Hope as low as the Mariana Trench.

It was a hard day.

Heard another patient in the hall saying her scheduled C-section had been pushed back to Tuesday.  "Guess this little one wasn't quite ready to make this my first Mother's Day!".  Jealous. Angry. Hurt.  If she's 2 days away from having her full term baby by C-section and she's not a mom...what does that make me?  Feel like a failure. Again.

It was a hard day.

Mother's Day 2012: Woke up to "waaaaa" and Brian saying Kaia was requesting my presence down in the kitchen.  Pancakes.  Eggs.  Toast.  "Happy Mother's Day". Gooey baby mush all over my floor.  Kaia's cranky from being up since 5 am.  Brian got up with her...after I was up with her at 1am.  Needs a nap already. I could use one too.

It was a great day.

My mom and me.  Out in the backyard.  Gardening.  Gabbing...between my Mom blowing her nose.  She has a cold.  I'm sure we'll all have it by week's end.  Got flowers planted this spring.  Last two years were write offs.  My backyard looks...happy. I am happy.

It was a great day.
Gave my mom and my mother-in-law framed photos of us as a family.

Minus one. 

Always minus one.

I am your mommy too Aidan.  I never forget it.  I never forget you.

Love you, now and always.

To all you mommies out there, whether your baby is near or as far as can be, or maybe only exists in your dreams...I wish you a happy, peaceful, hopeful day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hole to Whole

This is a hole.

It was made by an erupting volcano. The earth exploded and crumbled. Dust and debris flew into the atmosphere, choking the life out of anything that dared to breathe. Boiling lava spewed out and obliterated whatever surrounded it. A total waste land.

This is an apt visual representation of what my life looked like after Aidan died. 

Life was empty. I was empty. I didn't know how I was going to pick up the pieces and carry on. A part of me didn't want to.  I didn't know how I was going to survive his loss.  I remember sitting on my dining room floor a few days after he died, sobbing. Hugging my arms to my sides in effort to hold myself together, rocking back and forth. Yelling at Brian, "I want him back!!". In that moment nothing less than my Aidan would do.

In the weeks and months and now years that have past I have spent a lot of time peering into the hole that his loss left in my life. I needed to do that. I needed to cry about it, rage about it, think about it, talk about it, and write about his loss from every angle.  I needed to hurt, hurt, hurt...until a time came where I could begin to let the hurt go.

I read this article recently and it has inspired me. I like how the author describes healing from grief.  That it takes hard work. It is fallacy that time heals all wounds. Time isn't the balm. Time is just space away from the event. Hard work and the decision to learn from, grow from and move past the pain is what heals. Hard work takes time and since mental, physical and emotional wellness is something worth having, it does not come overnight.

I feel to a large extent I have done this work and healed from Aidan's death. I don't know if I will ever be 'finished' healing per say, as there may come situations in the future that will bring the pain of losing Aidan back to the surface (such as my upcoming return to work in the NICU. *Gulp!*). But, by and large, I feel I have learned and grown a lot in the last two years.  I'd like to share what I have learned in a small series of posts, the first of which I'm working on now.

I don't share my insight smugly, "look at me, I'm so great, I've healed!"  We all have our own journey to navigate back from the darkest of dark places and it's not my intent to compare, to shame or hurt any reader who feels they haven't come close to arriving at a place that resembles acceptance. Acceptance might not even be something you WANT to get to, and who am I to argue with that? I share on here with the understanding that some people's grief journeys are longer, with more twists and turns, more roadblocks or dead ends, but sometimes it helps to see what has guided others along the way. It's also important to note that we all start out along this path with different strengths and weaknesses that can help or hinder us in times of great sorrow.  I would love to hear your responses, and the things you have learned...because maybe there are things I have missed.

I feel incredibly blessed to say that two years later, life now looks like this. 

Some of you may recognize it.  It's Crater Lake in Oregon.  Made by a volcano erupting. Lava spewing. Ash and dust settling over the land for miles around. When this volcano erupted, it looked like the first picture above. Now with time, the energy of the sun, the power of the wind and the rain there are flowers. There are trees. Birds are singing. Bees are buzzing. This is a place worth living.

What can't be denied is that there is still a hole.

It's just now called a lake.

What's amazing, considering its beginning, is that this hole no longer detracts.  Rather it adds to the beauty of what surrounds it. The landscape is enhanced, made better, more abundant and full because of the hole, not in spite of it.

Aidan and the impact he left on my life I consider my very own crater.  No question, I would trade all I have learned to have him back, filling the Aidan shaped hole in my life that his absence leaves behind.  But that is not possible. So I choose to find beauty and goodness in what his life and death taught me. His short presence, and subsequent absence have forced me to dig deeper, expand my horizons, examine my beliefs, question what is possible and love more completely. Right after he died, I felt I had nothing. All I could see was the hole. But two years later, while he still has irrevocably altered the landscape of my life, I have come to appreciate how more MORE he has added to it, even in death.

It has taken two years and a lot of hard work but my life and its landscape has gone from hole....to whole.

Where are you? Hole? Or Whole?