28 Nov 2015
I tell myself I’m protecting my family and friends from my pain and my grief.
That’s not really true.
The truth is it’s really me I’m trying to protect. I’m afraid to show them this part of me. I’m afraid they won’t understand. I’m afraid they’ll judge me or think less of me for it. I’m afraid they’ll think I’m not spiritual enough. I am afraid they will think of me as weak.
I’m afraid of being told I should get over it.
The truth is my first thought every morning is of them. My last thought every night before I go to sleep is of them. I dream of them often and wake up crying when I realize, once again, they aren’t here and never will be.
I will never get over the absence of them in my life. They are part of me and I am part of them. Part of me will always reside with them, wherever they are beyond this physical world. Part of them will always reside here with me, unseen and unheard here in this physical world.
They are my daughters and I am missing every moment of the lives they should have lived with me.
Every birthday comes with no little girls to celebrate and watch grow another year older.
Every holiday passes with their seats empty at the table.
Every life milestone remains unachieved because there is no one here to accomplish them.
Every day I come home to an empty, quiet house.
Every wall remains bare of pictures and child-drawn art.
Every hug and every kiss never given because they are not here to give or receive them.
I don’t hate my life. I have made something beautiful and wonderful from it. I pulled my life out of the ruins of loss and crafted beauty from it.
My joy and happiness in my life don’t negate the deep and continuous longing for the children I never got to know.
The truth is my joy and my grief coexist simultaneously. They cannot be separated and one will never truly exist without the other.
My greatest joy is the life and love of my daughters.
My deepest sorrow is the death and loss of them.
Perhaps this cannot be understood unless it is lived. Many will be unable to understand. Many will likely say I should get over it and let go. I may very well be seen as less spiritual or evolved. Some may think less of me for the grief burns through my heart and flows from my eyes.
And maybe that’s ok.
I am proud to be Grace and Lily’s mother. They are the source and substance of my strength. I will long for them until the day I join them in whatever comes next. I will live my life filled with both joy and sorrow. I will live with both gratitude for their lives and grief for their deaths.
When I go to sleep tonight, my last thought will be of them.
When I awaken tomorrow, my first thought will be of them.
It will never be enough. I will always long for more.
But I will embrace it all, the joy and the sorrow, until I close my eyes and join them in whatever comes next.
15 Sep 2015
My book is officially released today.
When I imagined the day it would be released, I expected be excited, happy, filled with joy and pride and accomplishment.
And I am. I so very much am. I, however, didn’t expect to also experience the emotional upheaval of the last couple of months as this book has come into form. Grief. Fear. Anxiety. Doubt. Waves of emotion crashing through me.
When I decided to write this book, Invisible Mothers, two years ago, I had no idea what it would involve or what would happen with it. I simply knew it needed to be written and I needed to write it.
I didn’t expect it to mean so much to me. I didn’t expect to have so much of my story included in it. I never could have imagined all the beautiful connections that have come out of it. I had no idea how it would feel to see it and hold it in my hands.
And I certainly didn’t expect it to change me.
Oh, but it did. I am not the same person who started this book two years ago. I’m not even the same person I was when I finished writing it just a few months ago.
Apparently, one cannot put one’s heart and soul onto paper and send it out into the world without becoming someone new. At least, I couldn’t.
Part of me feels that this is the best and most important work I have ever done. It may be the best and most important work I ever do.
And that, my friends, is terrifying.
Last week at this time, I was sorely tempted to scrap the whole thing. Take all the copies I had and burn them without letting anyone else read it. I had sent out a few copies to some of those who had participated in the book and to a couple folks for reviews.
The first person to read and give feedback on the final version talked immediately about typos she had found.
At that point, with the level of vulnerability and anxiety I was already feeling, all I could think of was to throw it all away and withdraw it, and myself, from the world. After all the time and work, the heart and soul, the faith and money I’d invested in it, the idea of putting something out that potentially looked less than beautiful and professional felt heartbreaking.
It felt too painful and I wanted it to go away.
Two years ago, or even a year ago, I probably would have tossed it away. Hell, even six months ago I’d have run for the hills. I might have made some excuse, scraped the whole project, and withdrawn out of shame and embarrassment and crushing self-doubt. That me could not have tolerated the intense sense of vulnerability that comes with sharing this book – perfect or imperfect. The old me would never have risked opening her heart in this way or remained standing in the waves of self-doubt and uncertainty. The old me would have heard that feedback and withdrawn so deeply into herself, it would have taken years for her to risk being seen again.
The old me could never have shared this book with anyone in the first place. She was too afraid of more pain, more hurt, and more loss to even imagine opening her heart up in this way again – let alone sharing it with anyone else.
But this book changed me. This me can stand, perhaps weepy and emotional, but stand nonetheless through the vulnerability, the doubt, and the pain of disappointment. Even through less than ideal feedback.
This book didn’t just change me – it shattered walls and torn down shields that I built around my heart the day my first daughter died nearly 13 years ago. This book freed me.
It opened up my heart again.
This heart of mine might be covered in scars and jagged edges, it might be dented and stitched together, but what this book has taught me is that this heart of mine is strong. It is strong enough to handle disappointment, grief, and painful loss.
I believe I have created something beautiful, something powerful and meaningful. I believe this book, this gift of my heart to yours, will touch and uplift countless lives. I believe that it already is touching lives. My newly freed heart believes that with all her power and strength.
Typos and all.
And if you haven’t grabbed your copy yet – get it here! It might have a few imperfections, but it is full of power and love and grace and beauty. May it touch your heart as it has mine.
05 May 2015
There, I said it. Perhaps it’s not very spiritually enlightened or evolved of me, but it is honest.
This year will be my 12th Mother’s Day as a mother. An invisible mother, as my daughter died before birth, but still a mother. I’m not proud of it, but even after 12 years, Mother’s Day still brings up feelings of grief, bitterness, and pain. The weeks of ads and cards and commercials and endless talk of this idealized image of mother that pervades every store, TV, and social media site. It all makes me want to shut myself up in my house and avoid all contact with the world.
Unfortunately, I can’t hide from life, and as much as I want to, I can’t hide from the pain. Oh, I am so tired of the hurt. That constant ache inside for my daughters, that ache that feels like someone is repeatedly punching in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.
Not to mention the endless litany of judgment – from myself and from others when I admit my dislike of this holiday.
“I should be over this by now.”
“Mother’s Day shouldn’t still bother me so much.”
“You should stop being so selfish and think of others or your mother instead.”
“You make too big a deal out of this.”
“I should be more spiritually evolved than this.”
“Having others acknowledge my motherhood shouldn’t matter so much, I know who I am.”
But, it does still hurt. It does still bother me. The acknowledgement does still matter to me. I am, apparently, not so spiritually evolved yet.
It’s not as if I begrudge mothers of living children their acknowledgement and recognition. Raising children is hard-ass work and they deserve recognition for it. I love to recognize and remember my mother and grandmother. My mother did not have an easy time with me and she deserves a helluva a lot of credit for that!
I just wish that it was something we simply did every day instead of making a big spectacle of a Hallmark holiday out of it.
Every year I think, “I’m going to do better this year. This year it won’t hurt so much.” And every year I struggle with it. I fight to be present with life while not unnecessarily subjecting myself to more hurt. Most years I feel like I fail at this. I can’t recall a single Mother’s Day in 12 years that hasn’t involved grief, tears, and longing to be part of the “regular mothers club.”
Mother’s Day is still days away and already I’m exhausted. Already the judgment is raging. Already I have cried and had to manage the hurt. Already I am struggling to find the balance between living fully and minimizing pain.
Perhaps there really isn’t anything that can be done to take away the pain of this holiday. It helps, I think, when the pain of childless mothers and motherless children is acknowledged on this day. Being seen and being loved without judgment does help soothe that burning ache within.
And, as much as that helps, not even that can bring back my daughters or make Mother’s Day a happy occasion. I don’t have a nice, neat solution to make it all better.
I still hate Mother’s Day.
I still struggle with judging myself for that.
I still try to engage fully in life.
I still get up and walk with this pain.
I am a mother who hates Mother’s Day. And maybe that’s ok.
Because this is life. Where messiness and beauty live side-by-side.
I am not, however, your typical mother.
Both of my children died before birth. Grace was born 12 years ago and I held her tiny body, silent and still, in my arms for one brief hour. Six years ago, Lily was miscarried from my body too soon to be held and cradled in my hands.
So, for 12 years I have mothered without my daughters here with me. This is what I have learned.
Love doesn’t fade
My love for my girls is still as rich and full and overflowing as it was when they lived inside me. I often hear mothers of living children say that they love their children more as they grow. I find the same holds true for me. I love my daughters more with every passing year.
I cannot see them, hold them, touch them, or hear them, but my love simply grows.
My girls gave me the opportunity to be a better person
When my girls died, I was faced with a choice. Lose myself in this all-consuming grief and pain or find a way to live again.
I can’t say I made the best choice those first few years after Grace died, but in the end, I have chosen to live. And I have chosen to allow the experience of their lives and their deaths to be an opportunity to grow as a person.
Through them, I have chosen to love more. Be more. Experience more. Forgive more. Have more compassion. Expand my perspective. Express more kindness. Be more understanding.
Their lives taught me about love. I’ve chosen to let their deaths teach me to love even more. It is a choice I can make every day.
Grace and Lily are my teachers. I choose to be their student.
In a way, I have a thousand daughters
It is an odd thing to have children that your heart knows so deeply, yet to have no real sense of them in this physical world. I felt their energy, their essence while I was pregnant. I will always remember of sense of peace and calm that came from Grace those months I carried her and the fire and restlessness that churned while pregnant with Lily. It gave me a glimpse of who they might have been, what their personalities might have been like.
I have dreamt and imagined countless times over the years of what they would have looked like, what their interests would be, how their personalities would have developed, and who they would have been. I have imagined them in a thousand different ways, with a thousand different faces and bodies, changing interests and preferences.
I will always wonder of the Grace and Lily who might have lived. I will think of them and look for them all of rest of my days. I will see them in the children around me, in my dreams at night, and in the beauty of this world.
In my mind, there are a thousand possible Grace and Lily’s. Each of them loved and longed for, whoever they might have been. For me, they are not just one child, they are thousands.
Grief is an always-evolving process (and it’s not my enemy)
Initially, the weight of their loss and my grief was all consuming and indescribably devastating. When Grace died, the world, as I understood it, shattered and has never been the same.
Over time, my grief has softened and I have put the pieces of my world back together. My world will never look the same as it once did, but it is good and sweet and beautiful again. I look at the world through changed eyes. I feel with a heart that was expanded and stretched by two little babies, a heart that has been pieced back together with a love and a sorrow that have made it stronger.
Once, in those early years after Grace left this world, I was afraid of my grief. It’s power and intensity cowered me. But grief was not my enemy. Nor was death.
Grief and death are, as Grace and Lily are, my teachers. When I learned to live with them, I was able to stand again. When I allowed grief and death to become my teachers instead of my enemies, I gave myself permission to live again, wholeheartedly and fully.
I have also come to learn that grief will always be part of my life. It will appear at expected and unexpected times and probably most often when I don’t want to acknowledge it. It will ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean for its source is that of love, and love cannot die or fade away.
So, my grief will come and go throughout this life. I will allow it to teach me because, at its root, it is simply love.
They are enough
Chances are, for several reasons, I will never be the mother to a living child. At times, that knowledge aches so deeply it takes my breath. Some days, even still, I long to hold a baby of my own, to hear them laugh and cry, and to kiss their faces. I imagine how it might be to love and mother a living, breathing child of my own here in this lifetime and that imagining hurts.
And, finally, I have made my peace with being a mother without living children. I have learned to allow Grace and Lily to be enough.
They are my only children. I had them with me so very, very briefly. I miss them more than I could ever express.
But they are enough. Their time here was enough. My love is enough. My motherhood is enough. Our family is enough.
They are my Grace and my Lily. I am their mother. Always.
31 Mar 2015
To all my beautiful mothers who have lost their baby or babies, this is what I want you to know:
- You are allowed to grieve and mourn your baby, no matter the circumstances or how uncomfortable it makes others
- You are allowed to heal in your own unique way, regardless of whatever timelines or stages others try to place on you
- You are allowed to claim your title and role as mother
- You are allowed to honor your baby however you choose
- You are allowed to name your baby and count them as part of your family
- You are allowed to say NO to baby showers, birthday parties, holidays, and more to care for your needs
- You are allowed to let go of those who cannot or will not support you in the way you need
- You are allowed to remember and love your baby, always.
- You are allowed to talk about your baby, your birth story, and your pregnancy
- You are allowed to be the new you without apology
- You are allowed to feel however you feel and let that be ok
- You are allowed to do, say, and be whatever you need to do, say, or be on your journey
I also want you to remember:
- You deserve love and support for however long it takes to heal
- You deserve recognition and acknowledgement of your motherhood
- You deserved to be honored and celebrated as the mother you are
- You deserve comfort and kindness from those around you
- You deserve time and space to heal as you need to
- You deserve to be heard and to share your experience of motherhood and love
- You deserve to mourn the old you and your old life, without apology.
- You deserve to learn to love the new you and your new life, without apology or guilt
- You deserve to feel joy and peace and alive again
- You deserve to love, always
- You deserve to say YES to life again
- You deserve to both miss your baby and be happy again