Wishing for a rainbow

I’ve hesitated for a long time talking about this subject as it feels particularly vulnerable to me. (As if this blog isn’t vulnerable enough!) But I also promised I’d be honest in this journey and I feel it’s gotten important for me to be brave and provide more context.

Chad and I have been trying for another baby for over five months now. We started trying for a baby as soon as that became physically possible for us again. The first month we tried I actually felt relieved when I found out we weren’t pregnant. I felt too scared and too raw to deal with the anxiety I know the next pregnancy will bring. However, the last four months have felt devastating each time we found out we weren’t pregnant. The self-righteous side of me screams indignantly at God, “You took my baby! Don’t I deserve a free baby pass!?! Why am I not pregnant?!”

It has never taken us this long to get pregnant. Hailee took 2 months and Charlie took 3. But besides the timing, in this state of grief, going on six months feels like an eternity!

I think it’s hard as a woman when you want a baby, to be patient. I think it’s exponentially harder as a grieving parent to be patient for the soothing balm only another baby can provide.

I also don’t think there is any other time in a woman’s life when she feels as vulnerable as when she is trying to conceive and then is pregnant. Vulnerability has never been my strong suit. And since I’ve been thrust, against my will, into the most intensely vulnerable experience of my life through losing Charlie, choosing to be even more vulnerable on top of that through trying to get pregnant has almost pushed me over the edge.

Sometimes I have fallen off the edge. For example, we found out we weren’t pregnant in August while we were celebrating our 10 year anniversary at a beautiful resort in Park City, Utah. Instead of enjoying a romantic evening with my husband, I spent the night crying myself to sleep with Chad’s arms consoling me.

I can’t tell you how fragile hope is for me right now. Each time I find out I’m not pregnant, that hope is shattered. Then I try to rally my completely depleted reserves to pick up the pieces, glue them together, and clutch them in time to try again the next month.

In this process, I am really trying to believe that God has a plan for our family; a GOOD plan. It’s really hard learning over and over again, first through losing Charlie and then from not getting pregnant on my time clock, that I am not in charge of my life. I am really trying to trust in God in this process, but making that choice isn’t easy and I have to re-decide to trust Him…a lot. I appreciate that He’s a patient God and doesn’t begrudge me my wrestle with faith.

Chad and I feel we have so much more love to give as parents! We also know having another baby, while he/she will never replace Charlie or fill the void in our hearts, will help our hearts beat again! So each month, we are continuing to choose vulnerability and faith despite the pain, because we believe some day that pain will transform into joy.

Families who have lost babies, refer to their next baby as a rainbow baby. Here is a description from Baby Center that I really like: “‘Rainbow Babies’ is the understanding that the beauty of a rainbow does not negate the ravages of the storm. When a rainbow appears, it doesn’t mean the storm never happened or that the family is not still dealing with its aftermath. What it means is that something beautiful and full of light has appeared in the midst of the darkness and clouds. Storm clouds may still hover but the rainbow provides a counterbalance of color, energy and hope.”

Here’s to hoping for our own rainbow!

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New mantra

I came across this quote a few weeks ago by Mae Chevrette and I’ve adopted it as my new personal mantra:

The entirety of the quote I feel applies to Anna before losing Charlie and the Anna I hope to reconnect with some day. But for me right now, the first few lines are the most personally applicable and profound.

I’ve taken personal liberty to edit a little:

It is in Me to defy expectations; to go into the world and be BRAVE.”

I am trying to tell myself I CAN DO THIS. I can carry on. But there are so many days I don’t feel equal to the task. There are times I am just hit by the enormity of losing Charlie and it feels impossible to reconcile my life to the world that now exists for me. I’m hoping that adopting this new personal mantra will help me get through those days…

Charlie re-growth

I LOVE when I find tangible evidence of sweet Charlie. Hence my reluctance to throw away his last poopy diaper. But as time goes by, the tangible evidence of Charlie decreases, until almost nothing remains. My breasts have long since stopped lactating. The linea nigra on my belly from pregnancy and post-partum has disappeared. While my body shape is forever changed, I fit pretty easily into all my pre-pregnancy clothes. But I do still have ONE very noticeable and tangible evidence of Charlie, which I call my Charlie re-growth.

See all those short hairs whisping out? I have those all over my head. About two months after I gave birth to Charlie, I began losing my hair. And I lost a LOT of hair. So much that I became quite anxious about it. My friend and hairdresser reassured me it was completely normal. Now that lost hair is growing back in and it is very uncooperative and unsightly. AND I LOVE EVERY STRAND! While I’m sure I will look better when it completely grows in, I will be sad to lose what I consider the last visible evidence on my body of my little son. In the meantime, each time I see that Charlie re-growth in the mirror, I smile.

Another month, another angelversary

Dear Charlie,

You would be nine months old today. It’s hard to believe nine months ago you came crying into the world. You were pink and soft and quickly fell asleep in my arms when they handed you to me. Your Dad and I continue to be heartbroken that we can’t watch you grow up. We talked this morning about what you would be doing now. We are sure you’d be pulling yourself up on all the furniture. And perhaps you’d be standing alone without any support. Maybe you’d feel competitive with your older sister’s early motility and threaten to take your first steps within the next six weeks. We miss you deeply mister mister. We are doing our best to keep you alive by honoring you in our hearts and actions.

In service of this, today we made the trip as a family to Primary Children’s hospital where we donated these hand-sewn and decorated puppets:

and these activity books:

in honor of you.

You’d be happy to know that your service project this month has been a group affair. The young women and young women leaders in our church are the ones helped sew and decorate the puppets.

I’m hoping to continue to spread your love each month by starting another service venture! I know you’d be happy to know your Momma feels enthusiastic about something for the first time since you left my arms five months ago! While I still have a lot of planning and plotting to do, I am embarking on a project to make a throw quilt each month for a family who has lost a child. People that love you and us are eager to learn how they can help with this project too!

Today my dear friend Liz came over to help get this venture going and we were able to make great headway on the very first quilt.

When your sister saw this quilt, she asked if it was for you. I smiled and said, “sorta.”

Your sister has been talking about you a lot today. At the hospital, when we were delivering the puppets and books in honor of you, she said, “Baby Charlie died.” And we said, “yes, that’s right.” And she said, “But I love him!” And we told her, “We love him too. And he loves you, so much!”

Then tonight, your Dad took Hailee on a drive and they drove by the Draper LDS Temple where Hailee said, “I go inside, hold baby brother? Please?”

Your sweet sister believes you are hanging out with Jesus in the Temple, which we’ve described as Jesus’ earthly house. We love thinking she feels you are just a 10 minute drive down the road from us. And we won’t dissuade her of that belief, because who knows? Maybe you are there at times. Especially when your Dad and I go visit there? But, selfishly, I hope you are visiting us here at home frequently…even if I can’t always feel you.

Oh Charlie, though the sting of losing you is still sharp, we are trying to live meaningfully, for you, mister mister.  I wish I could watch over you while you sleep tonight.  If you’re able, where you are, can you watch over us? I’m sending you a big hug and kiss on your nine month birthday. Love you.

Chad’s week

Remember how I talked about Chad’s coping strategies in this post?

I think this picture speaks for itself regarding how Chad has been faring this last week.

He picked the peaches himself, blanched them, peeled them, cut them, and combined them with sugar and whatever else you put in a peach pie. Then to top it all off, he handmade the dough and did the lattice design himself.

After baking his pie, while proud of the result, Chad didn’t even enjoy eating it. It sat uneaten, but slightly picked at, for about four days before Chad threw this beautiful pie away.

Yeah, I’m not the only one who has had a hard month. I wish I could make it better for him. All I can do is journey with him. I’m glad we’re travel companions. We can hug each other and without words, we know intuitively that the other truly understands.

Growing my own wings

It is so hard for me when people ask me, “how are you?” Lately I’ve taken to reflexively answering, “Ok. And you?” “Ok” seems vague yet satisfying enough to most questioners. But Ok isn’t always accurate. Sometimes I’m ok, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I feel like expounding on my feelings, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’ll say, “good” if I feel better than ok, and sometimes I’ll say, “surviving” if I’m actually having a hard time. Then yesterday I actually responded differently. I told the questioner, “I don’t know how to answer that question because I haven’t landed.

Almost four and a half months ago someone swiped the world out from under my feet and I’ve been falling, plummeting, screaming, straining to fly, circling, hovering, touching down here or there like a hummingbird alights on flowers, falling again, desperately flapping, flapping flapping but I haven’t landed anywhere. I don’t know where or when I will land.

It’s a weird experience, this groundlessness. Sometimes it feels scary and painful. Other times it feels numb, vacant and dreamlike. And sometimes I feel like I am approaching something meaningful, but I can’t see it or touch it yet.

One of my former clients made me a plaque a long time ago with a quote on it that held a lot of personal meaning for her. Now that quote holds a lot of personal meaning for me:

“When you come to the edge of the light you have known and you are about to step out into the darkness, faith is knowing one of two things will happen…there will be something to stand on, or you will be taught to fly.”

Maybe I will never land? Maybe landing somewhere isn’t the point. Maybe it is through learning to fly in this dark, suffocating, violent tornado of grief that I will gain the strength, perspectives, hope, and beliefs I ache to find and hold on to? Maybe I’ll find I’m capable of growing my own mortal wings? And if I can learn to really listen, watch and be patient, maybe God will be my flight instructor and my sweet Charlie angel can be my wingman?