August

Though it has been seven years now since August became my least favorite month, it still gets me down and this year seems worse than usual.  Zane, my rainbow baby, will start Kindergarten on August 28 and on August 29, I'll be remembering Matthew on his birthday, the day we met him and the day we said goodbye to him.  It was the first and last time I saw his tiny little fingers and toes.  It was the first and last time I saw the tiniest, cutest little nose and fingernails I'd ever seen. My mind swirls in a million directions, like a frustrating, devastating, painful tornado causing me confusion, guilt and shame.  

I feel confused as to why I still feel like this after all these years.  I've got so much to be happy about.  It's been seven years since I lost my first son, but August draws me in like a hypnotist and my eyes focus on the terrible, lonely days in 2010.  

I remember this week of the month of August 2010. I knew I should be feeling more movement, but my doctor said it was still early and he was small, not to worry.  

I remember going to see her August 27 for a regular checkup and my nurse checking for his heartbeat. She kept moving it to different places but couldn't find it.  She went to get my doctor and they came in with a sonogram machine.  As Dr. Atkins looked for his heartbeat, I watched her face, willing it to show signs of relief instead of the serious expression she wore.  I never saw it.  She sadly said to me, "It's not good."  My world crumbled around me yet all I could do was sit there, watching the life we had built so joyfully collapse.  I don't remember much except looking at her defiantly, angrily, vehemently opposed to the words she was saying to me.  She told me that I'd have to be put into labor and wait until it took effect.  I begged for a c-section. Nothing could be worse than going through all of the pains of labor to come out without the prize that made it all worthwhile.  No.  No other option was available to me.  I had to deliver my son and give him back the same day.  It was unacceptable. Somehow, I managed to drive myself home from Ft. Worth that day.  

The rest of the weekend, I was in bed, unwilling to talk to anyone. For two days I stayed in bed, praying for a miracle, until it was time to go to L&D early Sunday morning, the 29th. I had to walk into the maternity unit, where happy nurses greeted me, expecting me to say something other than, "I'm here to deliver my dead baby." Why was this a thing?  Why was I required to say that?  Shouldn't there be another way? Nobody should have to do this.  

They gave me my epidural early.  The nurse said there was no reason I should have to be more uncomfortable than I already was.  Still in a blur, I made it through the morning on the prayers of my friends and family who were gathered at church that morning, praying for my family.  I felt their prayers.  As the day went on, though, I began to think I was having a nervous breakdown.  My mind was fighting to hold onto my baby.  It was too soon.  He wasn't ready to come yet.  Only 24 weeks.  I couldn't give up without a fight.  My body was in rebellion.  As I fought his birth, nature fought back.  I ended up shaking hysterically, and felt that this must be what a seizure felt like.  I had no control of my body, try as I might.  I couldn't stop my shaking, I couldn't stop his coming, I couldn't save him. They gave me a sedative or something to calm me down and the second my body stopped fighting, Matthew came into the world, weighing just under one pound and nearly as long as a ruler.  He was utterly perfect.  

We were given no reason as to what had happened to him.  The doctor mentioned he had a knot in his cord, but it could have happened after he'd passed.  No answers.  No resolution.  No hope.  No feelings.  No breath.  No life.  He was gone.  This baby who I had spent the past six months dreaming about was in my arms, but this was not how I'd ever seen the moment playing out.  Perfect yet lifeless.  So much smaller than I'd ever imagined but absolutely perfectly formed.  10 tiny fingers, 10 tiny toes.  So incredibly loved, yet he would never get to experience our love here.  How was I supposed to go on without him?  

I felt guilty that I wasn't able to be the happy mother my girls deserved.  I didn't feel like I was of any use to them.  I wasn't of any use to anyone, but it was my girls that kept me going. Without them, I would have wanted to give up.  I feel guilty still today that I can't be 100% present the week of Zane's birthday because I'm thinking of Matthew's upcoming birthday and I'm flooded with sadness.  I have to put all thoughts of Matthew out of my mind in order to celebrate my 4th child, my second born son, my beautiful reprieve from the constant sadness but I feel guilt about that as well.  How can I push him out of my head?  I'm the only one who truly remembers him or cares, I often feel.  If I don't carry his memory with me every second of every day then he will be nothing but a sad, tiny gravestone that people will flippantly walk by as if he never existed. I'm responsible for carrying on his memory.  How can I tell Zane how he's my "favorite boy" when I know he has a brother who would have been just as wonderful?  How can I tell people I have three children and deny his existence, just to avoid an uncomfortable conversation?  Still I do these things, with a pang of guilt every. single. time. 

Then there's the shame.  I feel it in the judgmental comments I hear others say about me in my head.  They come from the people I love today, the people who knew me then and the people I have yet to meet.  

"Why does she focus so much on the past?"  

"She needs to let it go."  

"She needs to move on."  

"She should be thankful for the children she has."  

These words haunt me daily, though I've rarely heard them.  I've heard them used about people around me who have gone through similar situations.  I've heard people judge them behind their backs and I assume the same things are being said behind mine.  These uncaring words that I've rarely heard spoken TO me, still carry so much shame and power in my life.  They make me want to hide my feelings, to not tell people about him.  I don't want people to think I'm a miserable old hag who just can't "move on" because I'm not.  I have learned to be grateful for the lessons he has taught me and to be able to be a support for other women feeling these same feelings for the first time.  It's a terribly lonely path and knowing you're not alone is a huge relief.  I don't walk around in a constant pity party but with a heart full of compassion and understanding for hurting women.  I don't want anyone's pity but I do want my son's life acknowledged and to mean something to this world.  

So August is a hurricane of emotions for me.  I have immense joy and appreciation for Zane who was born just 359 days after Matthew died.  I have an immense feeling of longing for the son I never got to know.  It's confusing and I don't know how to reconcile it all.  I want to be a grateful, celebrating mom but at the same time, I want to mourn the loss of my baby as I walk through these days again and again in my head.  I feel like I'm just running circles in a room that's too small for me.  I'm banging up against every wall, spinning myself into the next.  I guess that's why I want mostly to crawl into bed and not come out until September.  Too much in my brain is screaming and I just want to silence it with a month long hibernation.  Is that too much to ask?  

 

To The Mom

To the Mom Whose Baby is Buried Just Above Mine;

I've sat at my son's grave and looked past his tiny grave marker in to the freshly laid St. Augustine grass planted atop the mound of loose dirt and wondered who you are.  Do you come here and sit often?  I see all the flowers and toys placed lovingly on his grave and know the pain involved in picking out those symbols of your love and sadness, knowing the destination they are intended for.  I know all too well the anger felt in placing those toys on the tiny stone, knowing that all you want to do is to place that toy in their tiny, curious hands.  I know the feeling of hopelessness as you stand in the cemetery, wondering how you are supposed to leave your baby all alone in the old, dark cemetery.  It's a scary place.  They can't be left alone.  You are supposed to protect them.  You also know these thoughts are ridiculous. They aren't feeling scared or alone... Right? You don't know.  You don't know anything.  I can look at the freshly dug grave and feel all of these emotions all over again and I weep for you.  I am so sorry you have to do this. I am sorry any of us have to feel this pain.  Are you okay?  I wish I knew you.  I wish I could ask you if you have people standing beside you.  

I wonder if you ever look over at Matthew's grave and think about us.  Do you wonder if it will hurt less in six years?  Do you wonder what happened to my son?  Did you pick this particular spot because there was another baby here and you wanted to be able to have another child close by?

I'm sorry you've suffered.  I hope you are okay.  I hope you have support.  I pray peace and comfort for your entire family.  Oh, sweet mama, I wish you weren't walking this road, but now that you are, please don't walk it alone.  

Carol

Calling All Sisters

 Girls, it's time to armor up unfortunately. Yes we've been through hell and back but we have to remember how much we hurt and how much we needed help. We are now called to be that help. Did you have that help? Who was it? Who could you call in the middle of the night if you needed something? If you had that person, you were blessed. If you didn't,  what would that have meant to you to know you weren't alone? 

 For 6 years I sat back when I heard about people who had miscarriages, stillborns, or lost babies. I thought to myself, "How sad. My heart breaks for them. I hope they have someone to connect with like I did."   I would pray for them, which is wonderful, but I think we need to step up. I've decided that if I had to go through this pain, I had better make it count. If I can help other moms who are dealing with this pain, then I can at least try to make something good come from Matthew's death. 

 At first it felt weird to send a stranger a message on Facebook when I heard of their loss. I thought they would think I was crazy, but I chose to be obedient to the calling I had. Sometimes I get no response. Sometimes I get a polite thank you. No one has ever been rude. Several have turned out beautifully and I'm so grateful that I didn't ignore that gut feeling I had to reach out. I'm not an outgoing person at all, but this topic is so close to my heart that I can't sit back and do nothing anymore. I urge you to consider stepping out in faith also.  Share your stories with grieving moms, let them know they aren't alone, and you're available to talk. It doesn't matter that your stories aren't the same. What matters is that you are there for them to talk to when they sorrowfully enter the Sucky Sisterhood.  Don't just reach out once and tell them you're there if they need you. Check in on them. They won't reach out for help. They need you to offer it to them again and again. 

 If we as sisters will stand together and let others know we are here and that we aren't afraid to tell our stories, our voices combined will be heard. We are the 1 in 4 who will suffer from pregnancy loss. Our children deserve a voice and our stories can be told without fear of judgment. We hold our pain inside until we are ready to burst as to not cause discomfort to those around us.   The hurtful comments, the judging glances, the pity, and the uneducated drivel that spills from people's mouths make you want to scream. 

 The Sucky Sisterhood not only needs to join together for each other's sanity, but to educate the other 3/4 of the world who have never experienced this loss. The majority of them truly want to know the right things to say and do for their friends and family. Giving them insight to this would be such a loving gesture for the Sucky Sisters now and the unfortunate, unknowing sisters of the future.  

Are you willing to stand up and fight for your sisters? 

 

Mother's Day Mindset

"How many kids do you have?"   It seems like an easy enough question, but I can't stand the awkwardness it causes me to feel. I hate to make anyone feel uncomfortable by answering honestly, but I also feel that if I don't acknowledge Matthew's life, then I'm not being fair to him either. He doesn't deserve to be forgotten, ignored or betrayed. Pretending he was never born does nothing but make those around us feel better, those who never really cared about us to begin with. 

The first time this really sticks out to me was a couple years after Matthew died, on Mother's Day. We were at church when a well intentioned pastor did the cute game where he had all the moms stand up. 

"If you have more than one child stay standing."  Uh oh. I could see where this was heading. Panic.  

"More than 2?" Still I stood, wondering what I would do in the next question. People who didn't know me well would be confused if I stayed standing after the next question. What IS the correct answer? DO I only have 3 children? Then came the dreaded statement. 

"Stay standing if you have more than 3 children!"  Reluctantly, I made my choice. I denied my son. As I sat, I felt the world close in around me. I looked around to see that only one woman remained standing, only one woman with 4 children. Everyone smiled and cheered for the mother as she was awarded a bouquet of flowers for her hard work of giving birth to 4 children. I wanted to scream that I, too, had four babies. I had not only given birth to 4 babies, but I'd had to say goodbye to one the same day I said hello.  Didn't anyone realize what was happening? Did anyone remember him?  

The tears started to fall. It had nothing to do with the flowers, the smiles or the applause. I didn't care about that.  I couldn't face the fact that I said he never existed in front of God, my family, my church and myself so others wouldn't feel weird. I was angry at myself. I had to leave service. I felt like I had betrayed Matthew. Again. 

Since that, Mother's Day has been anxiety inducing for me. I wonder what cute antics will be pulled at church. Will I have to be faced with that decision again?

Mother's Day is for celebrating moms. It's a day to tell our own mamas how thankful we are for them and for our kids to give us cute little gifts they made at school. I used to like Mother's Day, but now I feel a sense of dread leading up to it. I know I'm so extremely blessed, and I feel guilty even saying those words. I have three amazing kids here to celebrate with. I still have my mom and mother-in-law that I love dearly. I know this, yet there is still an ache in my heart that won't go away.

These are words I've never uttered on any Mother's Day because it seems so silly and selfish, when I'm so obviously fortunate. So many would love to switch places with me, to have children of their own, or to have a chance to see their moms one more time.  I know this. It's not anything I haven't told myself a million times, but part of me wants to just crawl into my bed and stay there for the day. I know it's not fair to the rest of my family, so I don't, but the urge is strong. 

Until this year, I didn't think anyone could understand, so I didn't share. I should be able to move on and not feel like this anymore. It has been six years. I wouldn't want to mention it to anyone.  I don't want to be a downer. It just sucks. You don't feel happy, but you want others to be happy so you suffer in silence.  The alternative? You do what makes you happy and make everyone else upset in the process. No matter what, someone loses. Better just me than every else, so I plaster on a smile, not nearly as convincing as I think I am, and go through the events of the day.  

All of a sudden, this year, I've seen others sharing the same feelings. I've heard mom's like me say the same thing. I feel normal. You mean I'm not a major Debbie Downer?  This year, for the first time, I feel like I can speak out loud what's in my heart, without feeling like I'm being a complete jerk for not just being thankful for what I do have, and I AM thankful. 

I wonder if I will ever have my joy restored. I ctch glimpses. Some days I feel better than ever, other days I think it's just going to take some more time. How much longer?

Psalm 13:1   Lord, how long must I wait? Will you forget me forever? How long will you face away from me?

 

 

Part I: Denial

The first stage of grief happened pretty immediately.   Denial.  When I first found out that I had lost Matthew, I was sure it was a mistake.  I knew that this wasn't happening.  I laid on my side, willing him to kick, and I swore I felt him.  

I knew God had raised Lazarus from the dead.  He himself had raised from the dead.  I was reminded of a story that I had taught to the kids recently in Sunday School as I had served as Children's Director at my church.  In Luke 8:40-56, a man named Jairus came to Jesus because his daughter was sick and dying.  Jesus told him all he had to do was believe and he would be healed.  When he arrived at Jairus' house, they learned that she had already died.  Jesus told them that she was only sleeping and everyone laughed at him, because they knew she was dead, but He told her to get up and she did!  He was and is a God of miracles and I believed he could do the same for my Matthew.  

This could all be a mistake.  What a great testimony we would all have when it was all said and done of how He had cared for us.  We had been so scared and sad, but I prayed and hundreds others prayed and believed that God would save my child and He would.  I decided I would insist on another sonogram at the hospital when I went in.  They would see the heartbeat this time.  They'd be shocked.  They'd see the awesome power of God and everyone would win.  Have I mentioned that I like to do God's job sometimes?  I do think I come up with some good ideas, if we are being honest.  

Obviously, I wasn't thinking clearly, because I'd already been given medicine at the office to start labor.  Even if he was alive, I'd be going into labor at 24 weeks, which wouldn't end up well for Matthew.  That thought never crossed my mind.  I just prayed and prayed all weekend that there had been some mistake.  I felt the phantom movements and kicks inside me and I knew that my prayers were being answered.  I was in denial.  

I know that if He chose to heal Matthew, He could have, but my slanted reality had created a new ending to my story, a new way for my path to go.  It was a new reality that I could get on board with.  I couldn't accept His path for me.  This wasn't happening.  These things didn't happen to me.  I wasn't going to let it.  I'd lived a pretty charmed life and I was refusing to accept this new road I'd been sent down.  It wasn't happening.  No.  I would not accept this.  Denial.

Quicksand

I sit here alone so many days,

overflowing with thoughts,

needing to share, but I can't.  

Who would I tell? 

Everyone is so busy.  

Nobody wants to hear me complain.

Everyone else has their own problems.  

They don't need to worry about me.  

Mine aren't really problems.  

More like thoughts flying around

like gnats, multiplying by the minute.

I can't stop them,

I just need some help to get them under control.  

He's too stressed.  

She's too busy. 

Everyone's too overwhelmed.  

While they are busy

buzzing around their own lives, 

I find myself stuck.  

Stuck and sinking quickly

into an all encompassing quicksand.  

The more I fight, the faster I sink, 

until the thought of disappearing  

seems absolutely appealing, 

so I let go of my struggling

and give in to the sadness.  

Why did I fight it for so long? 

I always knew I'd end back down here.   

When I've given up all hope,

I feel a strong hand from above grab mine

and pull me gently back to life, 

yet with the strength of a thousand men.   

He holds me while I gasp for air,

crying, sobbing, panicking.  

He soothes me with whispers of love.  

He reminds me who I am.  

He reminds me who He is.  

I am His daughter, whom He dearly loves.  

He is my Father, my comforter, my redeemeer, my all in all.  

He is my rock, my fortress, my strength, my help in times of trouble.  

I'm never alone.  

I never have been.  

He will never leave me nor forsake me.  

When Matthew was buried, He stood beside me, and held me upright.  

When I needed a friend to walk along side me, He sent the right ones.  

When I carried Zane to term, He celebrated with me. 

When I have these days where I'm sinking and feel alone,  

He reminds me that I'm not, 

that I never have been, 

and I never will be.  

 

Lamentations 3:23- Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

Psalms 30:5b - Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. 

Pregnant...Again

My doctor told me I'd have to wait a few months until I could try again to get pregnant. It was excruciating. I couldn't imagine getting to Matthew's due date with empty arms and not being pregnant again. I thought I would fall apart.  

His due date was December 19 and as I was out shopping for Christmas decorations, I decided I needed new stockings for my family. For some reason, my heart told me to buy an extra one because I'd need it. Little did I know I was already pregnant and I would not be remembering Matthew's due date alone. His little brother would be with me. 

My entire pregnancy with Zane was scary. I couldn't relax the entire nine months. I was seen at my doctor as if I was a high risk patient, though I don't think I really was. My doctor was as anxious to get my baby here safely as I was. Maybe not as anxious, but pretty close.  

One day during church, I went into the prayer room and prayed over my baby. I prayed that he would be active and I would never have to worry whether he was okay or not because he would move so much. As I moved over to the open Bible in the corner of the room, it was open to Luke 1:41, "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."  I laughed out loud at God's sense of humor and felt like my prayers had been heard. I know now for a fact that it was. I know now that I should have been more specific in that prayer. I should have asked that he be active DURING MY PREGNANCY, not his entire life. Matthew had seemed to be pretty chill with his movements, but Zane never, ever stopped moving. He moved in the middle of the night, he moved all day, and to this day, he still never stops moving, especially his mouth!! Oh, God hears my prayers and answers them, of that I have no doubt.  

At 37 weeks, my doctor and I were both very eager to get him here. When my contractions started after an exam, I came back in to Labor and Delivery and she went ahead and admitted me. This was around 6:00 p.m. On August 22, one week before Matthew's first birthday. I labored comfortably with an epidural through the night with headphones and praise music. I prayed, worshiped, and thanked God for this gift He had so sweetly given to me and that I was able to redeem my last birth experience into a sweet, worshipful time instead of a deep, dark sadness.  

At 6:16 a.m., August 23, Zane Kenneth was born weighing 6 lbs, 14 oz, but he wasn't breathing well, so as quickly as I saw him, they took him away to the NICU. It was a scary day of waiting to see if my baby was okay. I could not go home empty handed again. I wouldn't survive. Finally, they let Brad see him. When he came back with pictures of him, I couldn't quit staring at him. He was so perfect. 

Zane spent almost a week in the NICU, but was home just in time for us to celebrate Matthew's first birthday. Brad and I picked the girls up from school and we headed to the cemetery to introduce Zane to his older brother. I felt the need to tell Matthew that Zane was not a replacement, as one well meaning, but insensitive woman had said to me during my pregnancy.  "I'm so glad you're having another boy. He can replace the one you lost!"  All I could do was laugh at her absurd statement. He could and would never be replaced. I would never forget him. Zane did not heal my pain, but he did help me regain a new sense of purpose. Matthew will forever be my first son.  He will always be tiny, beautiful and perfect. 

Zane has helped restore my joy. My laughter has definitely returned thanks to Zane. I have said that Matthew must have given him some of his energy, his personality and his words, because there is no way one little person has that much life inside of him without some help.  

I thank God for the gift of Zane, while considering the bittersweet reality that the two would never coexist if everything had gone according to my plans. That's a hard pill to swallow. I have guilt when I feel so glad to have him because it feels like a betrayal to Matthew. It feels like I'm glad Matthew's gone. When I miss Matthew, does it mean I'm not grateful for Zane? It's hard for me to process. 

A new pregnancy brings a mix of emotions.  It doesn't heal the painful feelings of loss.  When you feel that only another baby will make you feel better, don't be fooled into believing that it will fix your broken heart.  It brings on a whole other wave of emotions.  It does help ease the loneliness.  It does distract from the overwhelming feelings of grief.  It does bring sweet joy to your life again, that you thought you'd never feel again, but it doesn't heal the pain of losing your child.  I'm so thankful for Zane and the blessing he is to me and to our family.  Our family would be incomplete without him.  I know that with Matthew, life would have been completely different, and someday, we will meet him and understand what that would look like.  Someday, God willing, we will be together with Zane and Matthew.  What a glorious reunion that will be.  

To The Ones:

This week has been a week of validation.  It's been a week where I've felt again and again that I'm not writing this blog in vain.  I'm not reliving these painful memories for nothing.  The stories I hear are from moms and dads, from friends who don't know how to help, from families watching their loved ones suffer, but are too afraid to say the wrong things.  I feel like there are some words I need to share with you today.  

To the ones who have miscarried:

Please don't invalidate your loss, or the life of your baby.  Just because you didn't carry your baby to term, have the chance to hold or bury your child, doesn't make your loss any less upsetting.  You have every right to grieve, and you need to allow yourself to do so.  It doesn't matter if you lost your baby at 4 weeks or 40 weeks, you still lost your child.  Don't let anyone tell you how you should or shouldn't feel.  

To the ones who have carried the burden alone:

Please don't feel like you're alone.  Even if your family doesn't understand what you're going through, seek out members of the sucky sisterhood to walk and talk with you.  Find a counselor to speak to.  Carrying this pain alone is too much.  Yes, you're strong, obviously.  You've survived the loss of your child, but that doesn't mean you have to stay strong all the time.  Allow yourself to grieve, and on your time table, not anyone else's.  Talk about your child.  Talk about your loss.  By keeping them to yourself, you're only bringing shame and sadness into your soul, which will drag you low.  Believe me, I know.  

To the ones who are trying to conceive after loss:

I know how devastating it is to watch friend after friend become pregnant while your arms are longing for the child that was taken from you.  It's okay to have those uncomfortable conversations with your friends, and if they are truly friends, they will understand.  If they've never been where you are, it may be hard for them to understand, but they will in time.  Forcing yourself to throw them baby showers and shop tirelessly in Babies R Us through baby registries is cruel to yourself.  

To the one who is a pregnant friend of someone with a recent loss:

Please be sensitive.  There is no need to talk endlessly about your pregnancy, your doctor's visits, your baby name books and for the love of God, don't complain about your aches and pains.  There are a million other women who would give anything to be in your shoes at any given time.  Approach the subject delicately, but don't keep it from your friend either.  Don't try to be secretive and tell everyone but her.  That will only make things more awkward between you two.  Tell her in a sensitive manner, but don't continue to discuss it at length afterwards. Most importantly, don't take it personally if she's having a hard time being excited for you at the moment.  It's not about you, it's about her loss, no matter how long ago she may have experienced it.  There is no time limit on grief. 

To the mom who wants to talk about the baby she lost:

Talk.  We worry about talking about our babies because we don't want to upset anyone.  We don't want to be a Debbie Downer or have others view us dwelling on our sadness. Screw that. If you need to talk, find a safe person to talk to. If you truly don't feel you have anyone, try journaling. Write your feelings. Write a letter to your baby. Don't keep those thoughts, that sadness, your grief inside. Talk about his little chin cleft. Talk about her tiny fingernails. Allow yourself to remember these things or you will risk forgetting them forever. As Brené Brown says, "choose discomfort over resentment." You'd rather risk the discomfort of starting that conversation than resenting the fact that you were never able to talk about them. They deserve the dignity of being remembered as the person they were, no matter how tiny they were, or if you ever saw their face. 

To the ones who tell us to move on: 

Sorry, not sorry, but you can take your opinion elsewhere. There is no right or wrong time table to grief. To you, it may seem like we are grieving too long, or dwelling on things we can't change, but that's not your concern and you urging us to move on is not helpful nor is it kind. We lost our child, a part of ourselves, and we will never recover. The pain becomes less raw, but it will always be with us. We will always have that curiosity in our mind of what would happen if our child had lived. How old would they be? What would they look like? What would they be like? We are not only grieving the loss of a child, but the loss of a dream we had for a different future and no amount of telling us to move on will change that.  Great idea, though.  

To the ones who just want to help:

The best thing you can do is to be present.  Let us talk.  Don't be afraid of the pain, don't run when things get uncomfortable and let the tears fall.  You don't have to hand us a Kleenex the moment you see them.  Let them fall, and let us know we are in a safe place with you.  Listen to our stories and let us know that you remember our baby.  Nothing is more special to me, than when people tell me stories they remember about the time that Matthew was born.  Whether it was about him personally, or about something that happened behind the scenes that I never saw, I cherish these people's memories, because I have so few of my own.  I cling to anything I can hear about my boy because those memories are what keeps him alive.  When the memories are gone, he will be gone as well.  Letting us talk about our feelings and our loss is the sweetest gift you can give us.  You have the ability to be so valuable to us, so don't feel like you have to stay away to avoid weird conversations or not mention their names in order to avoid upsetting us.  It's more upsetting for our pain and loss to be forgotten.

Healing Pain

As I've mentioned before, once I get something in my head that I want to do, it becomes an obsession that won't pass until it's done.  My tattoo for Matthew was one of those obsessions.  I didn't have any other tattoos, but I knew that I needed this to keep him with me for the rest of my life.  He was stamped on my heart and in my head, but I needed a visible memory that would keep him with me daily. I decided on the Mother's Love heart (James Avery design) from a necklace I wore daily and his little footprints on either side of the heart.

I'd watched my share of tattoo shows and I had preconceived notions of what my experience would be like.  I thought my artist and I would bond over my story of my tragedy.  Maybe we'd shed a few tears together.  We'd probably come away from the experience best friends or something.  It seems like that's what happened with Kat Von D on LA Ink, at least.  We'd at least hug it out at the end.  I guess that's not how it really goes, too often.  

I'm not even sure the guy asked me why I chose the tattoo.  He worked in silence while I savored the pain the needle was causing me.  I actually enjoyed the pain, which was confusing to me.  Maybe it was because it was a new pain that I wasn't used to and it took my mind off my constant .  Whatever the reason, it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it to be.  I could definitely see why people liked to get them. It was a weird, sort of healing pain. I just talked to Brad and my friend Casey while the silent, uninterested, un-LA Ink-like disappointment of a tattoo artist did his thing.   

I loved having his tiny feet so close to me at all times.  I didn't take into account that people would ask me what my tattoo meant, and I'd have to have the uncomfortable conversation with them that my son had died, and those were his little footprints.  I always felt sorry for them as I saw the discomfort I caused them as I answered their question honestly.  It was the first time I realized that this was a subject nobody wanted to really hear about.  Even if I wanted to talk about Matthew, I had a feeling that nobody wanted to hear about it.  It was too sad.  I'd make them uncomfortable.  I'd better just keep it to myself.  He was safe there, with me.  I'd never forget him, even if the rest of the world might.  

The more I speak to others, the more I realize that not speaking about this loss is so common. Women and families suffer in silence. They don't speak of their pain, they don't allow it, they don't feel worthy of owning it. They see other's pain as worse than their own, so they push it aside. They don't want to feel that hurt again, so they stuff it deep down, hoping they won't feel it. They busy themselves so that they can forget (guilty!). We need to let ourselves feel. We need to be here for each other to let others know that it's okay to talk. Please don't walk this alone. You have a sucky sisterhood backing you up. You have people who love you. If you don't feel you have someone, message me if you just need to vent. Please don't walk alone.