Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Today marks 11 months since Becky joined and left our family at the same instant, without a breath or a cry.
It's almost a year. It's been a long 11 months. It's been a HARD 11 months. But in that time, I have seen some of the purpose in Becky's life being so short; I have learned a lot from her.
It's the time of year for Christmas music. Last year Annie Lennox released a new Christmas album. Becky LOVED it. It was her very favorite thing to listen to (though she also liked Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog, and the Wiggles, this was the number one dance album for her.) This was one of her favorite songs on the album. It's a cool video too, so I'd like to share it with you as I remember her.
Becky left me with a lot of happy memories of the time I had with her, even if it was all in-utero (well, at least most of it. I know she has been with me since then too, but... in different ways.)
She also saved my life, and possibly her sisters'. You see, if I had never been pregnant with her, or had miscarried early on, we would still have been driving our Corolla when we were in our crash. And if she had lived, she would have been in the second row, and me in front on that trip. As it was, we all survived with minor injuries (well, except Maggie, who was completely uninjured becasue she was rear-facing and was protected by that.)
I believe so strongly that she knew what had to happen, and that she made this choice. The only time we could have known exactly what was wrong was during our follow-up high-level ultrasound with Dr. Devore. She was active before and after the ultrasound. During, she took a nap. The knot in her cord was behind her. They poked and prodded and tried to get her to move so they could see the back of the cord, but she just wouldn't. She just didn't move. In the end, they concluded that something was "off" a bit with the cord flow, but since she was growing (she'd jumped from the 15th to the 60th percentile), they were thinking it was okay. If she had moved away, if they had seen the knot behind her, she would have been born by scheduled c-section or emergency c-section if I went into labor. I'd have been upset by that, sure, but I'd have had time to come to terms with it and she would have almost certainly been born healthy. But because of her choice, her actions- it didn't happen that way. And so, because she stayed still when she needed to and did that flip that tightened the knot when she had to, she died just as she was born, and saved me.
Why would she do this? I can only guess that it's because it was necessary for me to stay here. I have work to do. Part of that work is advocating for child passenger safety. I'm a Child Passenger Safety Technician, and have been for about two and a half years now; I'm also currently on the board of Safety Belt Safe USA, an organization which provides education for techs and parents as well as advocating on the state and federal level for improvements in standards, laws, and policies regarding child passenger safety and occupant protection, and advocating for proper use in the media.
I have felt called to this work since I kind of "fell into" it. I have felt like I've found the work I'm meant to do, at least in part. And I feel that Becky's sacrifice for us was in part so that I can continue it- so that, through continued advocacy, spreading the lessons our crash story can teach, and the work I can do to help Safety Belt Safe in their mission, other mamas' babies will be saved.
So in that spirit I'd like to ask three things of you in the next month if you are reading this and care to, to commemorate Becky's life and help me express my gratitude for her gift to us of how she joined our family. They are:
1. Please make sure the children in your care, or those you care for who are in the care of those you can reach with this message (family, friends) are riding as safely as possible in the car. (Let me know if you need information on what that means or how to accomplish it!)
2. Please share my crash story in the link above (there's a brochure ready to print) with at least one person who has a child 12 or under riding in his or her car on a regular basis. This can be via Facebook, email, or by printing out the brochure and handing it to someone.
3. I know budgets are tight, especially this time of year, so this one's the hard one to ask for. If you have a few dollars to spare, even $1, and would like to make a donation in Becky's memory, please consider making a (tax-deductible) donation to Safety Belt Safe. If you go to their website there is a button that says "Make a Donation." Click and a button will pop up. Enter the amount you wish to donate and click "Update Total." Then log in to your paypal account. On the next page, click the button that says "add additional instructions." If you'd like to make your donation in honor of Becky, please write "In memory of " (or "in honor of") "Becky Hamilton." These donations, as a group, will be acknowledged and a little blurb placed in her honor in the January issue of the Safety Belt Safe newsletter. You can also make a donation by check or money order by sending to
SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A., Box 553, Altadena, CA 91003 with a note stating that it is in honor of Becky.
Whether you do any of these things or not, I appreciate your love and support. It would mean a lot to me if you are willing to do any or all of these things for me in memory of Becky, though. Thank you for your friendship.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
On dreary days, when all the world is grey and dark,
And in the air there hangs the taste of woe,
I sometimes think that there's no feeble little spark
That can dispel the clouds that gloomier grow.
And when I think on losses hard and heavy,
Sometimes I wonder why I must endure;
But I remember that my Father levies
Only that which my triumph will procure.
Well do I know my Savior bore my anguish
And that He bore my burden hard for me
So I'll not low in sorrow pine and languish
But stop to pray and thus make myself free.
Then I'll recall the joys that I now live with,
And the delight I had with those now gone,
Thus will I scrape the sorrow down to find the pith
Of joy that bears me up as I march on.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
She was covered in meconium. The nurses had given her a quick wipe but then just wrapped her up, not washed her except her face, because they didn't know how soon we would want her. It was the first time I had noticed this, even though I had held her all night, because I had been clinging to her so hard I hadn't even thought to unwrap her.
So my mom went and got a wash basin from the nurses, and some soft washcloths. And she filled it with warm water, and we washed Becky. We first washed her arms, little fingers, carefully cleaning the fingernails and being very, very gentle so as not to bruise her skin. Being careful not to tip her over onto her face, because I had found overnight that her body was already breaking down, and bloody liquid of a nature I didn't want to really think about would ooze from her nose if we did. Then she got some soap and we washed her hair. I reminded my mom that she has been the first one to wash each of my babies' hair, that she is the one who taught me to wash Emma's hair, cradling her over the sink, holding a washcloth over her forehead while pouring water with a cup over the sink to rinse it without getting the shampoo in her eyes. She is the one who first scrubbed cradle cap off Bridget's scalp with me and washed her hair, which was curly and reddish (it isn't any more.) She gave Maggie her first hair wash, too, when she had a diaper blowout at her house that got into her hair. And now she was washing Becky's hair with me. Gently, gently, being so careful of the fontanelle.
We cleaned the folds of her ears too. She has ears like me. I reminded my mom how she had remarked that all our ears are "complicated." I laughed, gently, as if the sound would break her skin too, or possibly just our emotions. I almost felt as if I was not supposed to feel like laughing. But at the same time I knew- yes, I had lost my beloved child, but that did not mean the world was devoid of laughter. She wouldn't want it to have meant that, and I didn't either. My life had changed but it wasn't over yet. Laughter and love go hand in hand.
We wiped her legs and feet. We washed between her toes as well as we could without hurting her- no, she couldn't feel it, but neither of us wanted to hurt her body anyway. We washed her little bottom, and wrapped it in a bit of gauze; she had no diaper, but we wanted to be sure nothing would leak out and mar her dress.
We put her dress on. Her pretty Christmas dress, the one that matched her sisters' (exact match with Bridget's, coordinating with Emma's and Maggie's.) The dress I had bought just in case she came before Christmas. The dress I had planned to put her in for portraits as a family and with her sisters, in their matching dresses. The dress I had stalked ebay for, feeling such joy when I got such good prices on all the dresses. Her arms were stiffer than a newborn's usually are, and yet she did not fight. It was strange how we had to fight her in, but there was no screaming like babies usually make when they get dressed. Almost a cognitive dissonance to dress her and not hear screaming. As we pulled the dress over her head my mom turned it sideways- she knew from experience with my girls (and remarked upon it) that it wouldn't fit without turning it, they get such long heads from Jeff. Maggie was the only one whose head wasn't quite so disproportionately brachiocephalic as a baby. I buttoned the buttons at the neck. She did not hold her head up as we dressed her. It was hard to think that she would never use those strong neck muscles, which I could see were just as unusually strong as the other girls' had been at birth, to look around at me, at her Abba, at Grandma, at a sister.
We put the bow on her head, the bow I had bought in a multi-pack at Target the day I saw it, a bit before Thanksgiving, because I had already bought the Christmas dresses, and the bow headbands for her sisters from Gymboree, and I knew this would perfectly complement her dress and coordinate with theirs. I have used bow headbands with all my girls since Bridget, but usually smaller bows- this was the biggest baby bow I had ever bought, and it was huge on her tiny head. It was flashy and bright and screamed "look at me!" As I put it on I thought of the irony- that bow that I had bought to elicit oohs and aahs from all my baby-loving friends and family would not be worn out to church, to family gatherings, to Christmas dinner. Instead, it would be photographed, and then it would lie in her coffin. I didn't want to think about what would happen to it after that. It was enough that for now, she looked beautiful, and that she got to wear it. It was so important to me that she wear that dress; most of the clothes I had washed and ready for her were ones her sisters had worn, or that I had picked up at the thrift store here and there "for the next baby" and not specifically for HER. This dress and headband were bought just for her. Just for my Becky, after she had a name. One of a set of four, the only single outfit, other than the outfit to go home in that I had bought only for her that was newborn-sized. The most special dress that I had spent hours deliberating over and shopping for. This was the outfit I had chosen with love, and now it was wrapping her cold little body, the warm fleece soft against my skin, my love wrapped around her, my mom helping me dress her.
My mom asked if I knew what color her eyes were. I didn't. I didn't look and I didn't want to. She was born asleep, her eyes closed, her heart done beating when the cord was cut, no energy to ever open them again. I wanted to leave her with that peace, and leave peace in my heart, not open her eyes and see them without life behind them, or risk bruising the delicate, purple-veined eyelids. I'm sure they were blue-grey; all my babies have had blue-grey eyes of various shades. I didn't need to disturb her to know the color. My mom agreed. Perhaps they were more blue than grey, as she was my blondest baby yet, with the sparsest hair. My mom said her hair was just like mine when I was born; it would have been curly, very curly, as it grew out.
And then we took photographs. Once we were done we wrapped her back up. She had to go down to the morgue. No one ever said morgue. They just said that it was time to take her downstairs, and that we could hold her again later before she left. They didn't say before the hearse came to pick her up but that is what they meant. And they meant morgue. I almost wished they would say morgue. They were trying to be gentle but I know what a morgue is. I know that they refrigerate bodies so they don't deteriorate as fast. I knew they would put my baby in a metal tray in the refrigerated wall. I hoped they would leave her in her bassinet, the bassinet that someone had made up for a living baby and which held her body instead, instead of putting her directly on the cold hard metal. But I didn't ask. I knew the nurses I was talking to were not the technicians who would be responsible, so I felt I shouldn't put my wants onto them. And I winced as the nurse tenderly, lovingly laid a blanket over her bassinet before wheeling her down the hall to be handed off to the assistant who would take her to the morgue. But I didn't say anything. I recognized, even in my grief and my outrage that she had to be hidden from view, covered, just to walk down the hall where babies were wheeled down all the time, that the sight of her might upset other mothers, and that I didn't really want to do that. No, it wasn't fair that my baby was dead and theirs were alive, but it was how it was.
That's the thing about Becky. That's the blessing of her life, the blessing she gave me. She is a teacher. That is her mission, I feel that so strongly. In saving my life in our crash, by her refusal to let us see the knot in her cord, by joining our family knowing that she would never get to meet us until our mortal lives are done so that the greater purpose could be served, she gave me the opportunity to teach, to spread the story in ways that may well save other mommies' babies' lives. And she's taught me more compassion. I like to think I was not devoid of it before, but in my grief, even in those first few days, I knew that MY wants and needs were not all that mattered. That I was not alone, not isolated. I knew that I was part of a long experience of the human race, death and life, in a way that I had never felt before. She gave me that. She has taught me to love better, forgive more readily, enjoy my life, be more patient, and find friendship, love, comfort of the Holy Ghost and strength even when my world may be crashing down around me. She's taught me that I can live through my greatest fears. And I know that she's got more to teach. That's my Becky. And one day I'll tell her how glad I am that she's my daughter, and how proud I am of her, face to face.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Jeff, who is being pretty incredible lately (not that he isn't always.) Three girls with me to make me laugh and smile. Becky looking out for us as she waits for us to join her.
A big comfortable house to live in. Enough food to thrive on. A fairly healthy body that should be able to safely bring more babies to our family to bless us. A doctor who supports that desire and will help me do that the way I want to.
A family that doesn't judge or chastise but just lovingly supports even when I'm not at my best. Friends who love me for who I am and give of themselves in ways I'd never ask.
Faith that even though I'm not good enough, that gap between the self I am and the self I can be will be bridged by grace, and my efforts will be helped. Love, lots of love. Divine love, familial love, true, deep love from Jeff, love of friends.
Opportunities to make a difference, to help change things for the better for others. Wonderful discussions with others who share the same work.
A brain capable of learning and deciding to do things better every day. A mouth capable of talking to teach and share with others. Eyes that can see beauty all around me. Ears to hear music, music that can touch me.
Life. I love life. Faith to not fear death. Peace in my heart knowing that those I love who pass out of life are safe.
So much I can't even write it all. Love, love, love, at the center of it all.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
I felt like I should write on my blog tonight. (It's been more than a month... again. Maybe I'm guilting myself, lol.)
Life goes on. We've had hot weather and icky colds. I went through a week of horrible side effects as I took the first step down on my dose of antidepressant (it turns out the one I'm on- which worked wonders for me when I needed it- is one of the absolute worst drugs to get off of. Horrible withdrawl.) I had such a bad migraine Thursday that my sister and mom took the kids for a few hours so I could try to sleep it off.
The week before that, we went to the beach with "Grandma Sheri." I stayed on the pier... I hate the beach. The kids loved it, until it was time to clean the sand off-- ick! And then they of course didn't want to go home, but we rode the Beach Bus and, well, didn't want to have to walk! ;)
Two weeks before that was our adventure in Hawaii. I feel like that should have its own post... but it probably won't! My album of Hawaii pics on Facebook is kind of a photojournal though if you're interested. I was really glad to get to spend a few days getting to know Mike, my friend Yvette's beloved, for a few days. He's really, really, really great. He reminds me of Jeff- can there be higher praise for a man? ;)
Overall, right now, my life feels... strange to me sometimes, but mostly good. I find it funny how after going through such a low place when we lost our Becky, I seem to have come out higher than I started. I feel better about myself. I feel better about my other kids. I feel better about being alive. I don't even know what to call that... it's just where I am. I almost feel like I should feel guilty for feeling that I am blessed by losing my daughter. But I'm not... I'm just blessed. I know that she loves me and that she knows I love her. I think I'm beginning to feel like she's here to bless my life- just away right now. And it will be a while til I see her but I know that's ok, she's in good hands...
It's hard to be reminded of her when it's not on my terms, though, still. I like to look at her pictures, sing songs she liked, touch what I've kept of her little clothes and the things that were lovingly made for her. But then they went and named a hurricane her middle name, the name I gave her because it symbolized such joy for me... Let's just say I'm not reading the news much right now.
It's so crazy to think that Bridget is a "kindergartener" this year. (She's 5... So she's not officially on the school paperwork, but she'll probably be learning to read some time in the next 9 months or so.) Maggie doesn't look at all like a baby any more. She definitely looks toddlerish. And Emma comes up with things that... Well, they remind me of me at her age, only deeper. 'Nuff said. :p
I still don't have the energy I want to. (Cannot WAIT to get off the BCP- found out when I took a week off in HI that it's causing a lot of this energy lag, etc.) My house is not clean (and, uh, probably never will be. :/ ) I'm not doing as much cooking as I should. But, I think I like our life, even as I think what it could have been... I like it. It's a good life. It's the best one we can make right now and so... it's good.
I don't really know what else to write. I think I'm out of things to say. Now THAT is an unusual occurrence!
Monday, July 18, 2011
My kids were each born, very obviously, with their own personalities. But they also have genetic traits, for sure. And then there are the things I work hard to foster in them. It's so funny to see how each little baby is such a different personality, and such a different person in terms of needs, likes, dislikes, wants. I think about Becky now and then and wonder what she would like and dislike. She'd be old enough to be grabbing for foods now. She'd be sitting up, smiling, laughing. Crawling around and getting into things... But what would be her favorite games? Foods? Ah, well. I know, no matter what, she knows I love her.
Sometimes we get to do the things we're really interested in, the things we love, the things we're good at. I'm excited for Pioneer Day; this weekend is the stake picnic, and I'll get to not only dress up (yaaaay! I love to dress up!) but also sing with my dad. The stake asked for musical entertainment, so we'll be giving them a (very) brief survey of popular music of the mid to late 19th century, things the pioneers would have known and sung. We'll be doing Aura Lee (one of the love ballads that was so popular), The Campbells are Coming (part of the Scottish cultural revival that also touched the US people), Gentle Annie (a Stephen Foster great, of course he was probably the great songwriter of the era, if one were to choose), and Bringing in the Sheaves (a popular gospel-song type hymn.) This is something I adore. A chance to sing period music, with my dad, in costume? You can bet I jumped on that...
Then, the week after that, we're going to Hawaii. By "we," I mean me, and the girls. Jeff is staying home and boy is he excited to get a little time to himself... But the funny thing is, I have no desire to go to Hawaii, per se. I'm excited to go to my friend's wedding (which is why we're going), and you can bet I will be taking advantage of historical and cultural opportunities while we're there, but I abhor sand, have a fear of volcanoes, and a huge phobia of flying over water. What am I most excited about during the trip, other than my friend's wedding? (Oh, and meeting her? That's right, we've known each other 10 years online and never met in person... did I mention that? :p ) The child restraints... I get to use some neat ones. Ride Safer Travel Vests> for Bridget and Maggie BubbleBum booster for Emma, and a borrowed CARES harness for Maggie on the planes... Yes, this is the part I'm most excited about.
But really, it's not a bad thing that I'm passionate about safety, even excited about it. It's not bad that I love history. Or that I love singing. That I love old music which was for the most part (ok, let's not mention the bawdy Irish songs and military and drinking ballads :p) were much less filled with cussing and abuse of women and blatant nastiness and sexuality than the music of today. That I love sharing these loves with others. No, not a bad thing. Just makes you wonder sometimes how it all happens. How it all starts. It's one of the most fascinating topics to think about for me. But I know no matter what, I will be proud of the cool things my girls end up interested in, and how great they are at learning about/doing them, whatever they may be. And I'm sure as I daydream into the future, I can't guess what even a portion of those interests will be some day- but I know, because I know my girls, I'll be happy with them.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Yesterday, the kids and I "marched" to the park, set up a sign, and sat for an hour and a half singing lullabies and handing out flyers in a peaceful demonstration on behalf of Habiba and Alma (the flyers asked people to contact the Spanish Consulate in L.A. and tell them that we wanted them reunited.) We scheduled it at 2 PM, the time set for demonstrations/lullaby sings all over the world yesterday. We passed out 6 flyers; not, you might think, that big of a contribution. But that wasn't the important part to me. The important part, for me, was teaching my kids that this is what we do. When we see injustice, we stand up for people in trouble. We organize. We protest.
On the way to the park, we had a great talk about the American civil rights movement. We talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. We talked about Ghandi. I mentioned Cesar Chavez too, I think. And we talked about the meaning of "non-violent demonstration" and why non-violence. We talked about what Jesus taught us about how to treat people who hurt us. We talked about doing what is right no matter the consequences to yourself. And we talked about why we would be singing that day.
This was a lesson for my children that we put our actions where our words and our hearts are. We stand up for those who are treated unfairly. We are part of something bigger- we are part of a city, a state, a nation, but also part of a world full of human beings just like us, and all of them deserve to be treated fairly, and to have their basic rights respected. When there is a wrong to one human being it is a wrong to all of humanity, and we must stand up and say "this is wrong." Not hurting anyone by doing so, but peacefully saying "We will not stand for this."
That is what I learned when I asked my dad what we could do when we heard the news of the massacre at Tiananmen Square on NPR when I was 6, and he said we could go join a peaceful demonstration. That is what I learned as we stood outside the Chinese Consulate that weekend with a crowd of other people who also would not stand for that wrong. That is what I learned as my 3 year old brother and I sang with the crowd "We Shall Overcome" that day. And that is what I hoped to teach my children as we sang "We Shall Overcome" along with many, many lullabies yesterday.
In the words of the song,
We are not alone,
We are not alone,
We are not alone today!
Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe that
We shall overcome some day.
We were not alone, we are part of a global community that protested this wrong and celebrates the reunion and, hopefully, will continue to fight injustice together. I do believe that if we can keep on this path, individual humans uniting into a larger force of peaceful strength for other individual humans who are wronged, some day we can overcome injustice. Some day, we shall overcome the wrongs of the world, and it is through peace, not violence, that will happen. The lesson I learned as a child is the lesson I hope to teach my own children- change comes through working together and non-violence, hurting others is not the way to enact change. I pray that I can help them learn that. I think that yesterday was a good start.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
I was never one to sit quietly and wait my turn,
To find a pleasant way to pass the time,
I have turned back because the line's too long, often.
I was waiting for you for a year, for it to be the right time for you to come.
Then I waited months more, learning to be patient,
Not impatient as I had been before,
Learning to tame my mind,
To calm my thoughts,
To wait for you to come
I thought I was getting better at it.
And as soon as you came you were gone
And now I have to wait again.
I have to learn to walk without you
I have to learn to laugh without you
I have to learn to sleep without you
I have to learn to BE without you.
Even when you're here, I can't know.
Even if you are busy, I can't see.
Even though it was time, I can't count
I have to wait
But you're worth it
And so I'll spend the rest of my life
Waiting for you.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I've been busy. Busy, busy, busy, seems like we've been DOING for two months straight. April is always super-busy for us and with Bridey's broken leg was more so this year. We spent several weeks at my mom's house, then came home just in time to get ready for Easter and birthdays and... Yeah. While at my mom's house we had lots of help, which is good as for 2 weeks I could not lift and Bridey could not bear weight. The Relief Society stepped up and I also had help from family, friends, and even my family's friends-- my sisters' friend's mom came and helped us several days (and gained the girls' undying love by making cupcakes with them and making them princess outfits out of tissue paper and ribbon and tape...)
Right before the end of tax season (which was 3 days late this year) I worked a check at the Petersen Auto Museum with SafetyBeltSafe, and we got a "Safety Belt Saved" award. The coolest part of this for me was my button. I keep it on my purse. It's teh awesome.
Here is a picture of the girls in their Easter dresses, as is tradition all matchy and adorable:
And wearing their hats, yes, hats are also tradition, bonnets until 2 or 3 and then hats thereafter:
Then there was May. My brother was confirmed a member of the Catholic church (he converted) and had his First Communion; we attended to support him in his desire to renounce evil and turn to God. We had a family birthday party for me and the girls the same day.
Bridey got her cast off, and after a slight snafu (we realized the next week or so that she still seemed to have a stitch in; we had my dad remove what turned out to be TWO, and thereafter her limping and complaining of pain stopped) she's doing great.
We got a new van! It's a 2005 Odyssey-- after we were protected so well by our 2002, buying anything else was kinda out of the question for us. We love it. We went out to Corona and found out that it will be a cinch for us to get swivel screens added in the back rows so rear-facers can watch the DVD player! That will be kinda super-cool as the older two tell me they want to rear-face again to feel safe, and we're going to oblige them with Swedish seats...
I had a few private seat checks in there too-- including one for a friend whom I think I know now better than I did when we were in high school, but either way, I'm glad to know her. And so glad she cares to keep her sweet kids as safe as possible. :)
My uncle who has ALS has been in the hospital; we downloaded Audacity and recorded a CD for him. It has some hymns from me, a song with all of us singing, Emma reading a story, us telling jokes, Ems and Mags singing songs with me (Bridget was not in the mood, lol, typical), and I hear it was a hit. The kids and Jeff learned a new song for it-- the "Alleluia/Praise Ye the Lord" caller/response song-- and it was very amusing to me that Jeff couldn't remember his part on his own. So after Emma learning the whole "Alleluia" tune with me, she had to switch to his side to lead him in "Praise Ye the Lord" because he couldn't remember the notes without a strong singer leading him! LOL! Note to self, if we ever sing a group thing as a family, put Emma with Jeff...
I had a birthday. It was kind of a hard day, being 5 months anniversary of Becky's birthday. I crashed a bit hard the day after. The day of though, my aunt watched the girls and we went to a movie. Then we had dinner with my dad. The day before we had dinner with my friends Melina and Leslie and their mom Celia at their house (I also consider Celia my friend, actually.) We have known each other since Meli and I were in Brownies together... We go way back. They're pretty much family at this point. Isn't it great how your family can grow to include people who you love even if they weren't born into your family? I have a lot of friends like that. Some I've met online, some IRL, but all are now family. Love that.
Anyway, in between ALL that business-- we've been sick over. and over. and over. Ick. It seems like when we're not busy, I'm sick, and when I'm not busy or sick, I have a hard grief day. I'd say I'm ready for a break but, um... I don't know that there's one in the foreseeable future coming up... I'm looking forward to stuff like flying to Ohio to help with a friend's son's birthday party, getting together with local-ish online friends, a trip to Reno, etc. But still.
That's ok. I'd rather be busy doing good things, making happy memories for my kids, and helping and supporting others. I mean, that's life, you know? Even with some grief and illness mixed in-- it's good. And I'm glad I get to experience it.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Friday night, we were in a horrific car crash. (Warning: really. It's horrific. And there are pics.) The kind that my first responder friends tell me they expect fatalaties when they see, especially when they know kids are inside.
We all sustained no more than fairly minor injuries. The worst was Bridey's broken leg and deep cut on her foot, and my very cut-up and scraped-up arm, which required a lot of stitches. We'll be better, all of us, completely, in less than 2 months. From an accident that could easily have been fatal.
Before our trip I had some promptings that I didn't understand but followed. I re-packed the luggage to make sure the heavy stuff was compartmentalized. I wasn't comfortable with the idea of Emma falling asleep and falling out of her booster, so even though I'd wavered over the idea of just watching her and poking her if she fell asleep, I put in a harnessed seat for her at the last minute, and sat in the back since she now couldn't reach back to pass snacks. There were other things too, but those were the two major ones.
And so when I realized we had crashed, and we were hanging upside down, and I heard that my family was all alive, and that I could wiggle my fingers and toes (and so was not paralyzed), and that the worst of the car's damage seemed to be on my side, not where my kids were-- I rejoiced. And over and over in my head, as I hung for 10 minutes waiting to be extracted (they had to cut off the door, stablize my neck, unbuckle me and then strap me to the board to pull me out), through fending off the bystander that wanted to cut me out and talking to my husband to make sure the kids were okay, I sang over and over in my head. And without a thought of what my words should be, my soul sang those well-known words over and over, the words that have embodied the joy of knowing that God has blessed us for so many over so many years:
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
And I understood the joy that Colin felt in that book, the joy of being alive-- both the euphoria ("I'm going to live forever and ever and ever!") and the deep, deep gratitude.
I begin to understand, I think, a teeny tiny part of the plan that God had when he sent Becky to live in our family for such a short time. She saved my life; she also enabled me to spread this message of car safety farther than I've ever been able to reach before. And I know that she had a choice in it. She did it for me. For her sisters. And for all those other mamas' babies whose lives she may yet save through the spread of this message.
But more than that, I feel just such gratitude. I can't think "why did this happen to me" because I know. If I hadn't been me, whosever children they were might not be alive. And I know my children need to live, because their missions in this life are far from over. Intuitively, I know that. And I know that God loves all children, and wants them protected tenderly, and that many parents need more information on how to do that, when it comes to travelling in the car. (After all, that's why I became a CPST to begin with.) And I know that my Father stepped in to shield me from the worse things that could have happened. And I'm so grateful. And so once again I will praise Him, and as I thank Him for my children every day, I will also thank Him for the good He is doing through us for others' children.
Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!
P.S.-- please join me in doing this work. Spread the story linked in any way you feel you can-- email, facebook, blogs, anything. May it do much good for those who read it. :)
Friday, March 04, 2011
My piano teacher talked about muscle memory. When you practice playing a piece, or scales, or anything, over and over, after a while your brain stops having to consciously think about where to put your fingers. Your fingers learn to "know" the feel of the song, or scale, and how to move and reach to the right place. I've found the same thing applies to many other things. Walk the same route enough and you stop having to think about where to turn; even if you've got your nose in a book (as I often did when walking to the library after school in high school) your feet seem to turn at the right place, your brain goes into automatic on it, and you don't have to think, you just feel and know.
It may seem silly, but when I was holding Becky, I knew I would have to let her go. I didn't want to forget-- so I made use of my muscle memory. I held her in my arms, cradled as my other babies have been by my side in my bed. I stroked her hair, and most of all, I traced her features, especially her ears, with my hands. (I love baby ears. I have always been a fan of nice ears-- they were one of the most attractive things, physically speaking, about my husband when we met, I know that's silly but I do love nice ears. But there's something special to me about baby ears. How other people feel about baby feet, I feel about baby ears-- just in awe that they can be so tiny and yet so perfect from the minute they are born.)
I stroked those ears over and over, tracing the ins and outs and lines with my fingertips, cradling her head in my whole hand, also touching lips, eyes, forehead, nose, chin, but always back to those ears, those perfect ears. I laid her head against my arm just where her sisters always cuddled to sleep. And though it may seem strange to some to want to do all this with a dead baby-- I'm glad I did.
You see, it seems to me I knew her soul, at least a little bit, before she was born. But every mother also wants to know and marvel over the sight and smell and feel of her baby's physical body. I don't have a great visual memory. I have an excellent auditory memory-- I can "play" whole CDs in my head and remember a movie line for line, note for note of orchestration of the background music, etc.-- but I have a very hard time visualizing things, whether real memories or imagining something. Thankfully, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep sent a photographer to help us remember forever how Becky LOOKED. Even if I can't close my eyes and "see" her, I can look at photos. But the feel-- I was so afraid I would not remember the feel.
But I can. Because I touched her over and over and over, and held her so long, I can remember. Late at night sometimes I lie in my bed, close my eyes, and remember the feel of her weight cuddled against my side, her head pillowed on my arm. I reach out my fingers-- and they feel the downy hair, the tiny chin, those little ears. And I'm so glad. It's a comfort to me, to know that I can remember. To know that just as I can feel, if I concentrate, how Emma, or Bridey, or Maggie felt when they were newborns cuddled in my arms-- I can feel how Becky felt too.
I'm sure that might be bizzare to some. But to me, it's a precious gift. And I'm grateful for it.
Friday, January 21, 2011
These lines have been on my mind a lot the last few days:
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
(From "How Firm a Foundation.")
Today is one month. One month since what we anticipated as a happy, if anxious arrival turned into unforseen, unexpected sorrow.
I've had help and comfort from sources expected and unexpected. I've had friends throw themselves into helping me, helping us, any way they could, from feeding my family, to sending money for expenses, to gifts for the girls. I've leaned hard on a few of them, crying to them, letting them distract me at times and listen to me talk about everything, even the hard things, at others.
I've had a visit from my Stake President (President Morgan has known me since I was about 18; his family feels like family to me by now, honestly) and Elder Ringwood, one of our General Authorities. They came by last Saturday (it was Stake Conference) and sat with us. Elder Ringwood talked about some experiences he's had with families who have lost children at or shortly after birth, and that he was impressed at the way they didn't let their other children forget their siblings, because they were an eternal family. He gave a beautiful prayer that touched me very much, about us being assured that Becky was entitled to eternal life, and asking that we recieve extra comfort when it was needed. His words were just what we needed to hear. (And he even understood the pressures of tax season, being an accountant.) We talked, we cried (and Bridget sat on President Morgan's lap the whole time, the girl knows a sucker for little girls when she sees one, lol.)
I've had days when I felt like everything was pretty much going okay. I've had more days when I felt like I will never be truly happy again. I've wanted to escape. I've needed to get out. I've gone out, and found that I didn't even know where to go. I've screamed at my husband. I've cried in his arms. He's cried in mine. We've talked; we've cuddled; we've tried our best, and sometimes it seems it hasn't been enough.
I've found comfort in strange places. The scriptures have much comfort for me, but that was expected; music has helped more than I can say. I've always felt most connected to myself, to my soul, through music, more than anything else. I've made dirty jokes with my girl friends and strangely that has lifted my spirits when nothing else seemed to. Helping a friend in need made my week. (That old adage about serving others when you need to lift your spirits? Really true...) My parents and other relatives have reached out to me and I've gratefully accepted their company, conversation, listening ears. Then things that I've thought should help, haven't. Ice cream holds scant comfort for me any more. Sleeping is fraught, as I'm apt to wake up from a dream of a baby I remember all over again isn't with me any more.
It's been a strange month. Unexpected. Unanticipated. Books on grieving, instead of a baby. Medications to regulate my brain chemistry so I can grieve healthily instead of going off the deep end, and to prevent another pregnancy until my uterus and heart have time to heal (for the sake of the baby, as well as my own.) Visits to the doctor's office where my main concern is not how much I weigh, but how I'm going to survive sitting in a room full of baby pictures. Tea to stop my milk coming in, instead of making sure a jaundiced baby gets enough of it to clear her bilirubin.
And yet, I've found gratitude. So much gratitude. For my friends. For the comfort I've been given. For the little ways I was prepared to survive this, and to be comforted, as far back as my pregnancy. For the things I was spared. I can't write about them all yet. But I'm sure I will.
So so far, it seems, the old hymn is true. My head is above water. I'm not "overflowed" quite yet. I'm finding out you can live through the unliveable. And as life flows on, sorrow is part of the water. But in the words of Khalil Gibran, "When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and in truth you shall see that you are weeping for that which has been your delight." The sorrow is there because there was joy. There will be joy with my Becky again, and, long-awaited, it will be richer because I have known this sorrow. I know that as sure as I know that she knows we love her.
So the day will be hard. The month will be hard, as this month has been. The year will be hard. But I am confident that I will not go under. I can already see some of the ways in which this distress is sanctified. I pray for the strength to heal, to carry on, and to recognize the ways in which it is sanctified further to me.
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
There are no roads that do not bend,
And the days, like flowers, bloom and fade,
And they do not come again.
Now we've only got these times we're living in.
We've only got these times we're living in.
-Kate Wolf, "These Times We're Living In"
The older I get the more I hear in Kate Wolf's songs. I grew up listening to her and appreciating the music as well as the vivid imagery and beautiful metaphor she wove through her startlingly real portraits of people and life, but like most great works of art (be they visual art, music, or literature) the more life experience I gain, the more they gain meaning as I gain understanding.
I was struck by those lines today. There are no roads that do not bend-- there is no life that goes exactly the way we hope and plan. I have had friends and family members lose babies before (though most before a full-term birth, many were quite far into their pregnancies) but though I'd obviously known that this is a huge shock and loss, I never thought about the changes in plan it entails.
That road trip we were going to take? Well, we won't be doing it with a baby. The trip to Disneyland? Won't be navigating it with a baby in tow. The plans for next Christmas? We won't have a one year old along. The picture of how my family will be spaced? Maggie will now be probably 4 or even 5 when the next sibling comes along, instead of being less than 3 when she gets used to having a baby in the house. Yes, Becky will always be in our hearts, and part of our family-- but she won't be living here, she won't be part of the household routine, it will be very different spacing-wise than what I'm used to, and planned for. Add in that I had a c-section (unexpected since I've always said I'd only consent to one when it was a life-or-health-of-the-baby-or-me situation in MY estimation) and it changes my short term plans due to my physical ability, and my next birth will now be "labeled"-- I'll be a "VBAC" with a slightly higher risk (before I was a "medium risk" patient, I probably still am, but still, it's a word I'll hear that I wasn't expecting, not that it's a bad one or anything.)
Basically, there's not much that will be happening the way I thought it was going to. So now, I have to walk that bend in the road and start trying to plan out the route ahead all over again, since my life has turned 40 degrees to the side of where I thought it would be going. There will be stops along the new route that are more sorrowful and difficult than I was expecting. Off to the side lies a little grave. But I can't stay here, can I? I guess I have to keep walking. Because I've only got this life, I don't get a choice. We can choose our path but sometimes it's not the path we thought it would be. We've only got these times we're living in.