Community of grieving sisters

Awhile ago I initiated a Facebook support group for grieving parents who lost babies to SIDS. I did this largely for selfish reasons: I wanted to surround myself with more people who “get it.” But I knew I wasn’t alone in my desire for connection and support. At first the group was a little slow in forming and openning up. People would post and others wouldn’t respond…or days and days would go by without any posts. It felt really vulnerable and scary when I didn’t know if the group was going to be meaningful for anyone. But then it just took off!  It’s been cool to watch these amazing women connect and share their vulnerabilities, anger, pain, frustration, sadness, happiness, confusion, doubt, search for meaning, celebrations, etc. I’ve been shocked at how many women we keep adding to this group as well! The title of the group is Utah SIDS Parents but we have members in different states as well. We’ve become a family in many ways, relying on each other, supporting each other, offering opinions, etc. There are weeks that pass when I forget to check the Facebook group feed and when I get back on, I see I’ve missed tons of posts and responses! The group has taken on a life of its own and is really self-sustaining as a source of support for almost 20 women! (contact me if you have experienced sudden loss of an infant to either SIDS or another cause if you want to be added to this awesome group of women).

Recently, one of the SIDS moms from the support group, and a friend, Heidi Hamilton, initiated a get together in Salt Lake City this weekend. She organized a play date with kids during the day and another group member, Julie Warnke, made reservations for quiet room at a fancy restaurant for just us moms that evening. Two members drove from out of state just to attend this SIDS momma get-together (one from Colorado and one from Idaho)!

I was a little nervous to meet some of these ladies in person. We are so intimate with each other on-line but it’s weird we’ve never seen each other face-t0-face! But my fears were quickly allayed minutes after getting to the splashpad with my girls. We all spent a couple hours at the splashpad and the kids all played while we talked.

IMG_5041 IMG_5040Then we went home to shower and change and five of us SIDS moms met again for dinner at the New Yorker in SLC. We ate a three course meal and talked for four hours.

IMG_5046We cried, we laughed, we shared photos and videos of our babies. We talked, and talked, and talked, about our pain, anger, sadness, confusion, hope, families, and anything else related to our grief experience. Even though I’m two years into the grief journey, this was a very needed and very therapeutic night for me. Close family and friends are vital sources of support in this grief process, especially as they knew and loved Charlie too. But it’s also so wonderful to have this community of grieving sisters and know we journey together!

 

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Live courageously and make a difference

That is my six word personal mission statement. It’s not one I often share outloud because it’s well…personal. But it’s true for me. I hold the values of living courageously and making a difference as top in my life. My mission statement pre-Charlie was: Have adventures and make a difference. I still value adventures but I believe living courageously covers adventures and so much more. Since losing Charlie, doing most things in my life require courage (having another baby, faith in God, commuting 2 hours for work, letting Cami sleep on her tummy, sending Hailee to school, etc). Those seem like everyday things, but to someone who has lost, like we have, those things are hard! As I continue to heal, I am also pushing myself to do more and more courageous things outside my comfort zone.  For example, I accepted to give a 45 minutes talk at the end of this month in front of my whole ward (minus the kids in primary and their teachers) on a topic that feels incredibly vulnerable: faith and doubt!

Regarding my desire to make a difference, this has been a personal value that burns within me. While I believe this is a GOOD desire, I feel slightly embarrassed to admit it as perhaps it sounds a bit narcissistic? Narcissistic or not, it’s something I really want to do. Something I want to do on both small and large scales. This desire to make a difference informed my choice to become a psychologist. It’s also part of why I love teaching (in all capacities from the young women at church, to college students at BYU). It’s part of why I have children. The thing that isn’t clear for me in my life yet is quite HOW I want to focus my energies in this arena. I want to make a difference in my children’s lives, in my client’s lives, in my students lives…but I also feel I have some calling. It’s a weird nagging feeling I’ve felt since I was a teenager. And I don’t yet know what that calling is. But I believe as I continue to do courageous things, eventually my calling will make itself known to me?

Sharing these thoughts all feel vulnerable, like writing in my journal. But I am writing this post because an incredible opportunity presented itself to me this week where I was able to feel I achieved BOTH pieces of my mission statement in one evening.

A small preface: It is a goal of mine to become a proficient public speaker. I know most people avoid public speaking wherever possible but I actually really enjoy it. Enjoy it in the way of adrenaline, vulnerability, nausea, and a test of my competency and if I something worthwhile to share. As another aside, I am connected with the Aspiring Mormon Women Community, which is a community of women trying to support, edify, and mentor LDS women, of all ages, pursuing higher education and careers. I am connected 1. because it’s a community I value and want to support as helping women pursue their dreams is a passion of mine and 2. I am good friends with the co-founder. 🙂 As part of my association with this community, I have written a few blog posts for them. Late last year I wrote this blog post where I shared a resolution to “say yes” to any public speaking opportunity sent my way as a means of progressing in my goal of becoming a proficient and influential public speaker.

This last Thursday I had a ticket to the Aspiring Mormon Women Night Out where I was excited to listen to a prolific public speaker and be inspired (as well as pick up public speaking tips). A little after noon the day of the event, my good friend Dianne (the co-founder of AMW) called me in desperation. She told me the keynote speaker cancelled due to illness and they were in dire need of someone to fill her slot. I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the invitation but I accepted to fill in. I then had just over 6 hours to come up with something meaningful to share to approximately 80 women who had paid $20 a ticket to hear someone else!

IMG_5039This felt like the epitome of living courageously. As I spoke to this gathering of women on relinquishing beliefs about how they feel they should be, embracing and loving who they are, and more meaningfully pursuing their values, the audience was very engaged, receptive, and enthusiastic. Despite my lack of ability to really prepare for this event, I felt I delivered a meaningful message that many women later told me they loved and needed to hear. That night I was truly happy, feeling that I “lived courageously and made a difference.”

Our rainbow turns 1!

IMG_4986The irony here is I waited with baited breath for a WHOLE year for Cami to reach this milestone…and here I am finally writing about it three weeks later. Please don’t take my tardiness as indication for lack of enthusiasm. In fact, just the opposite! We are THRILLED Cami has turned 1!!! In some ways this year FLEW by (I can’t believe she is ONE!), and in other ways, it was the longest year of my life praying every day that Cami would live past the SIDS risk. And SHE HAS! At least I think so. I asked my pediatrician if 1 year olds really DON’T die of SIDS and what he told me was, “Statistics were always on your side; even though I know it doesn’t feel like that in your home. But now, where Cami is, statistics are really really one your side. Take the monitor off of her!” So that was pretty reassuring…but not really an answer. I wanted a resounding, “No, babies over 1 do NOT die of SIDS.” But regardless, our anxiety has decreased substantially since Cami has turned one. I feel like I’m finally getting permission to enjoy her! And ENJOY my life! Once a week, we are being brave and leaving Cami with a young baby sitter, who Cami LOVES, so Chad and I can go on long-overdue date nights.

We are also going to be REALLY brave and leave both Cami AND Hailee for 6 days next week while Chad and I go to Banff, Canada to celebrate our 12th anniversary! We are simultaneously nervous and excited. It’s going to be really good for us. And the girls. Baba (my ma-in-law) is coming to take care of them.

In service of this anticipated absence, we are officially, FINALLY fully transitioning Cami to her crib! No more sleeping with us! Last Wednesday night we started letting her cry it out. It hasn’t been easy but I DO think she is transitioning. For four nights now she has slept in her crib until after 6am! And we are sticking to our guns! But in service of total honesty, each night has involved me climbing into the crib with her to snuggle her back to sleep and I “come to” two hours later with aching hips and a kinked neck from accidentally falling asleep with her. My crib excursions are coming to an end SOON as I can’t handle the poor quality sleep I get in that shared 2 feet by 3.5 feet cage! I think ultimately this will be a great transition for everyone. We will ALL start getting better sleep as soon as crying-it-out turns to sleep-all-night-uninterrupted. Sometimes, in Cami’s stubborness to sleep, she falls asleep sitting up!

IMG_4924The little sinker will sleep for a long time in this position! One of the last nights she slept for two hours sitting up! When we go to push her over so she’s lying down, there’s an over 50% chance she’ll wake up and the fight will continue again. Finally, with regard to Cami’s sleep, we aren’t quite brave enough to take the Snuza monitor off yet. We’ll pass that bridge sometime after our anniversary trip and we get used to Cami sleeping all night, in her crib.

Besides transitioning to her crib, Cami has also transitioned 100% to cows milk. I was sad to wean her and actually tried to procrastinate that end, but she lost interest and as a result, my body responded in kind. I am grateful I did get to nurse her the first year of her life! It was an experience I didn’t get to have with Hailee or Charlie. I already really miss that intimacy with her but on another level it’s nice to have full ownership of my body again.

All these transitions feel like Cami is officially leaving “babyhood” and moving onto the “toddler” years. I don’t know how you define that transition so I just go off that little cartoon walking baby figure labeled Toddler on the Yogurt melts bag I feed Cami, haha.

Speaking of food. Cami is still such an eater! Sometimes it seems like her appetite is insatiable and she likes to double fist food!

IMG_4980We feed her whenever she’s hungry but despite her awesome appetite, she is still quite petite, weighing in at 18.41 lbs (11%). She has hit a growth spurt though, growing to 27.95 inches (up to 16% from the 3% last time she was measured). Her head continues on a very steady 51% curve. Because Cami eats so well, we aren’t worried about her size the way we constantly agonized over Hailee’s small size, adding avocado to everything she ate in an effort to help her gain weight and grow. Cami is petite and perfect and developing great!

Cami is super independent and is getting a grasp of when she is doing something naughty, or has something she knows she shouldn’t have, because she will run away from us and swat our arms away in desperate attempts to keep her treasured (most likely choking hazard) objects. She has also learned how to open cupboards and more than once has walked around gleefully brandishing bottles of dish soap or floor cleaner (poison alert!). Grateful for child-safety lock lids but am definitely going to buy cupboard locks ASAP.

She continues to be a very happy baby who loves snuggling and dancing (shaking her head from side to side with some cute, uncoordinated body jerks). She is Hailee-re-incarnate and tries to climb up on, and stand on anything she possibly can. She smiles so big when she accomplishes these death-defying feats and throws big fits whenever we grab her off those conquered mountains. Hailee continues to be her best friend and Cami follows her everywhere. I absolutely love watching their sister love and the way Hailee can make Cami giggle like no one else. Cami is also the best little greeter when we get home from work. She’s just as happy and enthusiastic to see us as any puppy would be. She immediately waddles over for a hug with a huge grin on her face. Selfishly, her unconditional love and positive regard is super therapeutic!

For Cami’s birthday party, we had a small BBQ get together. The only thing I really anticipated and planned for this party, was her birthday cake; which I knew was going to be rainbow  themed:

IMG_4891And besides how pretty this cake was, it tasted delicious too! IMG_4962 IMG_4963 IMG_4949It was perfect to have family and a couple close friends here for the celebration. I can’t describe how wonderful it feels to be able to celebrate another child’s birthday and watch them grow to meet an important milestone! We are grateful every day for our rainbow and the love she brings into our home! Wow, what a year! Here’s hoping to many more years to come with our girls!