Sunday, August 30, 2009

Like a Shell

Waves of grief are thus described
Because when they wash over you
They pull you under deep dark waters
Waters where you find yourself as frightened as the first time
Her death pulled you under
Waters where you know helplessness
Again, as it was before
Waters where you wonder

"How will I survive?"

Waters that bash you against the shore and roll you around in cold blackness
Until you surrender to grief's tide
Leaving you at last on the sand and seaweed
You feel like a shell
Perhaps others will see the beauty of your shell, but you feel like your insides are gone

You are gone

Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Blogoversary

And now for something completely self-serving. It's my blogoversary . . . well let me tell it as it played out in my living room.

"It's my blogoversary."

"Your what?" DH asks barely listening.

"Blogoversary, you know like Julie from "Julie and Julia." She blogged for a year and then had a blogoversary and left the pound of butter beneath Julia Child's picture."

"Butter? Your what?"

"Blogging. I've been blogging for a year."

"Oh, that's great, dear."

OK, that's not exactly what happened, but close. Ha!

It's been a year, and I've been reflecting about what the blogging activity has done for me and my goal of becoming the kind of mother Caitlin should have. She saved my heart, you know. She transformed me when she came 7 weeks early and gave me the gift of motherhood. And I was afraid. I doubted my ability to parent her and protect her and help her grow in a cruel world that isn't particularly friendly to children with Down syndrome. And I was afraid that she would see in my eyes, that I had wished for her to be something other than what she was.

Caitlin was very sick when she was born. She had a heart defect and she slept most of the time I parented her in the hospital. I cherish the times she opened her eyes and looked into mine. And, I know she only saw that I loved her. "I'm sorry," I told her one day,"you don't have a perfect mother, but I love you perfectly." DH would say, "I can't wait until we can bring her home and find out who she is." On the eve of her heart surgery, her bowel perforated and she died in my arms to my singing. I was torn open.

I was (and am) well-supported by family and friends, but grief overwhelms takes control, and commands attention. I surrendered. I tasted words, and wrote poetry. I saw images, and longed for skills to bring them to canvas. I created montages of pictures of her and music that I sang to her. I wrote my grief in short stories, as I remembered every detail of a conversation or an experience at the cemetery. I worried that family and friends would grow weary of my grief and my DH was taking care of me postponing his grief. Outwardly he grieved in different ways than me and I was afraid he wouldn't know where to find me when I was in deep mourning.

I found the MISS Foundation and other bereavement forums and I posted and read and read and posted. I had found another place for my anguish to go. MISS Foundation remains a source of great comfort for me. I also discovered the blogging community of bereaved parents, mostly mothers who showed me that this e-life was different than the frivolous, the mean-spirited, the commercial, the everyday, and the academic blogs. Bloggers in this community sent e-hugs, but you could feel them "for reals." They revealed their hearts without fear; the deaths of their children destroyed any fear that remained. I learned that you have to be willing to be vulnerable if you wish to be held.

I needed a place to put my longer posts and the ones that were personal and exploratory. And that's when I started this blog. I can't say that on this blogoversary that I'm celebrating, rather I'm grateful. That when my precious child, Caitlin died and I couldn't seem to find enough fuel for the raging grief fires that ravaged my heart, mind, body, and soul, there was another place for it to burn. This e-space offered something real life couldn't deliver, a place of pause. A Fifth Season where the world could and did stop turning while I ruminated and made meaning of Caitlin's life and death.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

Compassion is what you'll frequently hear from a baby loss mama when she describes the gift or lesson she received from her child or as an outgrowth of her grief. The practice of compassion is more likely to increase after tragedy or traumatic life events.

It's not as easy as it looks, though. And a recent unfortunate blog post by a mother who by all accounts is a compassionate loving mother to her children, her family, her friends and her blog readers, seemed to illustrate this thought. She chose to use some words that unfortunately hurt a community of women, she didn't intend to hurt. She apologized, but for me it seemed to illuminate something bigger.

Compassion: Not as Easy as it Looks

Because, from her comments it seems that she intended to hurt someone. She intended to hurt those who she perceived had judged and hurt her by their comments. There's plenty of evidence that others have been quite hateful toward her role as a mother, though perhaps not to her personally.

Being compassionate is more readily possible when the compassion is given to those who readily receive it and with whom we have a relationship or perceived connection. It's no great surprise to anyone that we are typically less compassionate to those we don't connect with, or lay outside of our social, religious, ethnic, or economic class.

Plenty of comments were left for the blogger, some genuinely trying to help her see that she had hurt the IF and loss community and some who aimed to explain why her words were hurtful. And yes, there was plenty of plain meanness posted, and several so ugly it was unfathomable to me. The blogger fended them off as best she could and seemed to respond in kind; if poster was reasonable so was she, if sarcasm was reeking, she added a stench of her own.

An e-conversation erupted on another site to discuss the post and the comments. Those posts were full of injured and angry words (mine included) and the site provided a safer place to express the hurt--a place where no matter what we said, we knew it would be received.

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

As I read the posts (after posting mine) from beginning to end, I could see the struggle of many to be compassionate to the blogger who had injured the community. Some tried on the perspective of the blogger, and a few angry injured posters removed their words. The blogger apologized twice, and a brief discussion ensued as to the veracity of her apologies. One commenter stated, that the blogger did not want to understand, but wanted to be right.

The desire to be right, I'm convinced, is an obstacle to being compassionate. If your goal is to be gain agreement, sway others to a point of view, then you aren't in a position to listen, learn, and love. And when we're in this mode of teaching others what's right, we aren't particularly receptive to be admonished for words or behaviors that aren't caring. Sometimes, I think we know our behavior isn't compassionate and it's easier to shrug off any criticism, but when we aren't aware (as I believe said blogger was unaware) and taken by surprise that we have acted poorly we find that compassion is not as easy as it looks.

We try defensiveness, trading barbs for barbs, and eventually we may apologize. But will we choose compassion next time or will we merely pull our circle closer around ourselves to prevent another lecture or gentle chide? Could we agree to disagree? Could we learn to use, "for me" or struggle with disclaimers, rather than make proclamations? Will we be willing to accept admonishment and aim as Maya Angelo states, "When we know better, we do better."

Our unfortunate blogger's last statement was that she felt "beat to hell." I read each of her comments and responses and it's clear to me, she's working hard to be compassionate. I thought she didn't know how, but truth is we don't know how until we know better. I'm convinced that to practice compassion we need to hear from those we may have injured (and that frankly sucks); and to be part of that practice, we also need to make our injuries known. I learned a great deal tonight with this e-life event. I wish we had all been kinder (acknowledging that so many were kind) and hope we are able on this arduous journey to practice compassion, 'cause it's hard work.

Compassion: Not as Easy as It Looks

Peace, Kim.
Peace, baby loss and IF community.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Note on Dentist's Chart

Had an emergency-of-sorts appointment at the dentist's today. I woke up Saturday morning to find that I was crunching on a bit of my own tooth. Even though I use a mouth guard, the gnashing, clenching, and grinding has gotten worse. Doesn't take much of an introspective look at why it's increased. Caitlin's 2nd birthday is coming up and with it the season of her life and the season of her death.

I sat in the chair and the dentist makes "small" talk, about his sister who just had a baby and who doesn't want to go back to work, about his wife's second pregnancy and how she had little to do at home, and about babies and babies and babies, and I'm thinking, "Scheezzzeee, can't we just put a note on my chart that reads--Dead baby mama."

As I sat there unable to respond, I found it not-so-amusing that I had to endure conversation that prompts the kinds of thoughts and emotions that likely cause me to slam my teeth together as I sleep. Then an ever so slightly amusing visual played out in my head like a silent movie [Cue music] and I wryly smiled to myself as I had the urge to slam my jaws together! For the good doctor's sake, we should really get a note on the dentist's chart!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Honet Scrap Award

Fellow blogger and friend at Becoming Whole nominated me for this blog award. Thanks, Becoming Whole, I'm honored.

The rules are:

1. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs you find brilliant in content or design.

Knocked Up, Knocked Down
Surviving the Day
Still Life With Circles
Tuesday's Hope
La La Land
Heart Heal Hope
Shanti Mama

2. Show the 7 winners’ names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they have won the Honest Scrap award.

3. List at least 10 honest things about yourself

OK, here goes. Below are 10 random honest things about myself complete with nonsensical segues:

1. I like to use the phrase beer:thirty 'cause I think it's funny and was my version of "It's Five o'clock somewhere," for many college years! This is number one because I just saw my first Jimmy Buffett concert! I know I'm out of the pop culture loop.

2. I'm still having trouble getting back to reading since Caitlin died. I can read blogs and articles, books if they are about grief and poetry, but I can't seem to sit still and turn the page of a book or journal, especially when it's related to work. UGH

3. I admire smart articulate women who seem to be able to wade in the waters and aren't afraid to stir those waters occasionally with some pretty vigorous swimming.

4. Year two of life without my daughter feels like sludge. I struggle with inertia and listlessness. But, I do smile more than in year one.

5. I'm a classical music elitist snob, but I have a "secret" love of country western music like Sugarland, Rascal Flatts, and Kenney Chesney--who sings "Keg in the Closet," a song that reminds me of the years of "beer:thirty"!

6. I am intolerant of people who yell. I am distressed by those who think if your voice is louder your ideology is "righter." In real life, I walk away and let them know I'll be back when they have calmed down, and when I'm assaulted with it on TV, I turn the channel.

7. I seek the opposing point of view. I laughed out loud when I heard a TV entertainer say, "And if you don't agree with me, then why are you watching anyway." I seek the opposing point of view, because I wish to be informed and live in the world as it is and not as I wish it were, and because I wish not to demonize those who disagree with my point of view, and because, above all I choose to grow--and growth, I believe requires cognitive discourse.

8. I love NPR, I just do. They talk about stuff for a long time and they interview people who write amazing books like Daniel J. Levitin, and deliver information about programs like Musiccorps, and they rarely interrupt and almost never yell. And they provide plenty of cognitive discourse. Lovely, better than beer:thirty!

9. I know the difference between a scientific theory and a theory.

10. I think it's ridiculous that in conversation, professional or casual, that everyone is referred to as "guys," as in "Hey, you guys let's do this." I sometimes imagine a world where we refer to everyone as "gals" to discover if "guys" is truly gender neutral. Perhaps someday I'll get to respond with this, "Tell me why again, it's an insult or inappropriate to refer to everyone as a "gal?" or "Hey, gals, it doesn't matter, it's just a figure of speech. Now gals, let's play some football"!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Three Random Pics: Three Random Thoughts

This is another pic of one of the frogs who comes to visit us on our deck. When I catch 'em on my porch, I am compelled to take pictures. There is such interest in their faces. And recently I learned that the two snakes who took residence in a pile of bricks close to our house, eat these very kinds of frogs!

The summer has been a time of getting things cleaned out. We shredded hundreds of documents and took lots of clothes and shoes to the St. Vincent DePaul bin. I included a bag of my pregnancy clothes. Plenty of tears during this event. I couldn't help but note the irony in seeing that I had purchased three polo prego shirts with butterflies on them---a symbol now of Caitlin's spirit in this world, now transformed, but beautiful.

And this, is proof to me that I still have joy in my heart. This was captured while I was teaching my pre.scho.ol music group. And my smile surprised me, I barely recognized myself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Gift From Kay

I saw the ocean first when I was very young, that was pretty cool, as I was a landlocked child. My shoes got washed away with the Pacific tide. That was cool, except the part where I didn't have any shoes to go home with. The next time I remember seeing the ocean, I was an adult. And the first thing I did was write my name in the sand and watch the waves wash it away. Each time thereafter, whether I visited the Atlantic or Pacific (Those were my two choices.), I found a stick and wrote messages and drew flowers and such. Sometimes I would add a stone or leave the stick to help me out.

Though, I must admit, the writing didn't hold a great bit of meaning for me, other than it's what you do when you see undisturbed sand of any size that begs to bear a message. And now that simple activity of writing in the sand has become a sacred ritual of sorts for me and many other bereaved parents.

After Caitlin died, I was struck by how profound it was to write her name and know that that seeing her name in print was tangible evidence that she was here. If felt like that's all I had left of her. I saw her name in stone where her body lays, and I was overwhelmed.

I wrote her name in the sand on a visit out west; at the family beach week on the east coast; on a beach on the Cape, the town beaches that are close to my home, when there wasn't/isn't a beach I write it by arranging stones, or I draw her name in the snow. When I discovered Carly's site and requested Caitlin's name to be written on a beach in Australia. I wrote her name again and captured the tide as it came to wash the letters back into the Atlantic. Most recently, Kay at "Eternal Names by the Sea" sent me these photos of Caitlin's name on a white sand beach in Australia.

Thank you Kay, for your kind gesture. I'm always comforted to see her name. I'm grateful.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Using Photobucket: Tutorial for MISSters

Dear Forum Users,

Here's my quick tutorial for using Photobucket. Photobucket is a free service site where you can upload your photos and then post them into webpages, forums, blogs, and the like.

Go to
It's best to do this in a new browser window.

And sign up or sign in.

Once you're here you can likely navigate your way to success, but I know that doing things for the first time can be frustrating, so here are the steps as I follow them to post my pics on the forum.

Click on upload pictures. (See next note concerning picture upload size.)

To avoid uploading large files, BEFORE you click on upload pictures, click on "more options" and change the upload from large to medium (that's my suggestion for size for posting on the forum). Then click save, so all images will be uploaded to this size. This will also make the upload time less. You can change the settings at any time.

A window will open for you to select the folder and image you wish to upload.

The image uploads . . .

. . . and when it's finished you click on the picture and a menu pops up . . .

Choose the IMG code and copy it. Navigate back to the forum and paste the image into your message. It will look something like this.

When you publish your forum message, you will see the image. Mine looks like this.

Remember that you can edit your forum posts if you don't copy the right code the first time.

Happy posting. MISSing all our precious children.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

He's Grommit to My Wallace

With all this lack of sleep and restless sleep and grief-infused sleep, I've been feeling exhausted during the day. DH and I watched Wallace and Grommit shorts last night. The DVD included additional segments of "Cracking Contraptions."

The snoozatron had me in stitches. Perhaps I need a snoozatron and an understanding dog or . . . a loyal companion or . . . a loving husband?! Heh heh, sometimes DH must feel like Grommit when I have these tossoturn nights.

You can see the flick here. I highly recommend buying or renting these highly creative and funny videos. It gets my safe for babyloss mamas stamp-o-'pproval!

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Friend Has a Teenage Daughter

My friend has a teenage daughter
And I think, "How ordinary. How amazing."
I see her sometimes
"How ordinary. How amazing."

When me and her mom work together
I see her look at her mother
With her mother's eyes
I hear her speak using the timbre
of her mother's voice
Softer and more innocent
"How ordinary. How amazing."

Her mother and I work at the Gazebo
in their yard, inside the house
Daughter plays her guitar rock style
She gets going on her summer reading list
"How ordinary. How amazing."

She's bored perhaps
Wishing her mother were done
And walks across the wet green grass
To where we are
"How ordinary. How amazing."

"Did you have lunch," my friend asks?
"No, I'm waiting for you to have a sandwich."
"How ordinary. How amazing."

I wish I were dead, then I could
Walk across the wet green grass barefoot
Into the House and have a sandwich with
My daughter who waits for me.

Please, don't worry about me. I am not suicidal. I am bereaved, and sometimes when these stories come to me written in loose poetic form when I'm between sleep and wakefulness, the thoughts come out raw. I didn't know that this encounter was weighing so heavy on my mind, until the words came. But it's true for me that some of the most ordinary happenings of my life have profound meaning to me because of the absence of my daughter. This is another example of an "and-both" phenomena with the coexistence of wonder and banal.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

At The Beach

Choosing Compassion over Suppression

"I'm going there, and it's not pretty," is what I hear in my mind as I type this post. I hadn't imagined that in my grief journey I would come to an intersection with a sign post that reads, politics. I will do my best to refrain from invective, name-calling, and sarcasm. I will state as clearly and concisely my reasoning and do my best to avoid emotional outbursts. I am nervous. I do not wish to offend. I do wish to add a perspective on health care reform.

I will gladly pay more tax dollars so that more women and children can live healthier lives. I am fearful of negative aspects of the bill that, for me, are negative because I find them primarily vague. What ignites the most fear is the unknown, because this bill would instigate significant changes. I've read many interpretations of the bill from a variety of perspectives. However, my decision to support or not, needed to be based on what I read and understood. So, I read the bill (the one from the HR); it wasn't a quick read (1000+ pages), but it was manageable (150-200 words a page, double-spaced and wide margins). I understand that by contributing to the health care of others, I may inadvertently fund procedures that I am morally opposed to, therefore, choosing to support or not becomes a true moral dilemma that I must grapple with.

Currently, 90% of all abortions, are paid for by private insurance companies, the other 10% I assume are paid for by the already government funded health care plans. That suggests to me, that I am privileged to have the free will and personal responsibility to make my health decisions based on my personal belief system by virtue of the amount of money I make. I am not convinced that stopping this bill will stop women from making decisions I disagree with. I find no evidence in the language of the bill that abortions or other procedures will be mandated.

To continue grappling and arriving at a personal solution to my moral dilemma, I must be careful not to elevate myself to some righteous level, by lauding a personal decision to have my child. For me, when I found out I was pregnant, my daughter was already here. Therefore, I cannot claim making the right decision, when I didn't believe it was a choice. I believe that women in lower income brackets have morals, ethics, and belief systems that guide their behaviors just as I do. Perhaps tax dollars will give them opportunities to be as free and personally responsible for their behaviors and choices, as are those with money.

More importantly, tax dollars will give them opportunities to receive prenatal care and to take their children to the doctor when they are sick. My insurance paid for prenatal care, and when we learned of Down Syndrome and our daughter's heart defect, I had pregnancy decisions to make. Insurance paid for my decision to have counseling from a qualified genetic counselor (who requested information concerning my beliefs prior to testing) concerning parenting and caring for a child with developmental delays; it paid for my decision to have early tests by a pediatric heart specialist to determine when and what course of action would be needed to repair her heart; and it paid for my more frequent prenatal visits that became every other week or as soon as 10 days after the last visit. I believe women in lower income brackets ought to have the right to make these same pregnancy decisions that I was privileged to make.

This is not an easy conclusion to arrive at, when powerful emotions are at play. But, another powerful emotion is also at play, and here's where I break my promise about no emotional outbursts. Cailtin's life and death gave me the gift of this emotion--compassion. It's not that I was without compassion before my daughter, but it is that I have a deeper understanding, a stronger drive to be more compassionate, and belief that it is essential to choose compassion over suppression. I am not interested in suppressing needed health care that lies within my morals--taking care of women and children.

Private insurance typically pays for family planning services; and if no insurance, Title X allows for the care. Taxpayers are already paying for services that also include gynecological exams, diabetes tests, cancer screening, as well as pregnancy tests and counseling. My understanding of the business of health care is that more money is made by private companies when they deny care, then when they provide it. Private insurance companies are no more interested as a corporation in helping children live and helping poor women get the care they need to have healthy babies or get counseling when they discover they are pregnant, then those who might run a public option. For a company that is for profit, I am led to believe that stopping this bill is about profit. And pushing my moral button on abortion is a way to manipulate my emotions to help companies keep their bottom line.

But, for me, the denial of basic care for others is unacceptable. I remind myself that this bill is not a pro-abortion bill. I remind myself that I already have the privilege of enacting my morals by virtue of having money and relative good health. Stopping the bill would be choosing suppression over compassion. I choose compassion.

I am convinced that more women and children will be served and cared for, with reform of the current system. I am convinced that more children will live with reform of the current system. I am convinced that more families, when they suffer the death of a child will be spared the painful hospital bills that arrive following the death of their precious children. Spared in the same way, I was, because I have money. I don't need to keep more of my money, I need to be more compassionate. For me, one small part of acting upon that compassion is to support this reform. A larger part is to support other ways, personal and legislative, to reduce abortions and support a culture of life. I grieve for the deaths of all children and hope for more compassionate support of pregnant women who find themselves without health care. But that larger part is another post on another blog--as I have crossed the intersection of politics and grief.

I am not looking for validation of my position and honor all perspectives. However,
I ask that when commenting that you refrain from name-calling, sarcasm, threats to my health, and damnation of my soul. But, if you are unable, I will choose compassion and wish you only peace.