Sometimes Bits and Pieces ARE Enough- An Analogy With Bagels

December is a difficult month for the Frog Family.  We lost our oldest son as an infant on Christmas morning almost 10 years ago to SIDS.  Four years later my father-in-law passed away also on Christmas.  Since ER passed away (how can it be 10 years already?) Papa Frog and I have added 5 more froglets to our family.  But no matter how joyful I know this time of year should be, it is a hard time for me.  I cry alot.  Some days I just don’t do much.  While others around me are in the spirit, I struggle.  It is made even more difficult because now, not only do I have ER’s birthday and Christmas in this month, The Boy also celebrates his birthday.  So I have to put on my festive pants and cope the best I can.  And I can tell you this- it is not easy.  Sometimes I feel like during the holidays my family gets the little leftover bits and pieces of me.  This is the time where I have to deal with myself- listening to myself and pampering myself a little is my reward for getting through the days.  It also just so happens that this is one of Papa Frog’s busy times of the year.

I always start out the month with grand ideas and lofty aspirations.  But by the time Christmas hits I am dragging myself through.  So yes, on top of everything else I feel guilty.  I don’t want my kids to grow up with their memories of the holiday season overshadowed by a brother they never knew and their mother’s inability to suck it up and function properly.  Sometimes this is how it feels to me.  Although I know that if it were that easy to just function, I would do it.  I don’t want them to feel like they got the odds and ends of joy and memories and traditions.

But today, today I had an epiphany.  I wanted to make something filling for lunch and I haven’t made bagels in a while.  So I went on the search for odds and ends for the bagels.  A heel of cheese, one lonely jalapeno, a few leftover sundried tomatoes, a wedge of mozzarella.  All those little odds and ends left over at the end of the month.  I split the dough into manageable chunks and added in the fillings and toppings.  A little bit here and a little bit there.  Some stretching and kneading and reluctance and before it was over I had 2 dozen gourmet bagels.  Some were plain, some were onion bagels, some were jalapeno cheddar and some were sundried tomato, basil and mozzarella.   All of them were so much more delicious than their individual components.  And I got to thinking- you know what, I am kind of like these bagels.

I have a little here and a little there to give, but if I give it purposefully and wholly to my children then the gaps won’t be as large.  Take December, add in a little here and a little there- some hugs, some cookies, crafting together, cuddles and holiday movies, trimming trees, giving gifts and stretch it and work it in, even if it hurts and even if there is resistence, and at the end, maybe just maybe we end up with the same thing everyone else has- happy holidays.

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October, Sweet October Has a Dark Side- And I Don’t Mean Halloween

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I have a post I have been working on in my head for a week or so now.  I had planned to write it on the 2nd.  I was just going to set it to post on a schedule, nothing fancy, just a general cycber hug to a bunch of Mama and Papa Frog’s I know, and a public service announcement.  But then, as I was sitting down to write that post, I got a Facebook message from a friend that stopped me in my tracks.  We had lost contact over the last year- busy schedules, Tiny Tadpole’s birth, homeschooling (me not her), college (her not me), relationship changes (her not me) etc but a month or so ago,  she called to tell me she was pregnant.  I was happy for her (bittersweetly so as my days of making that call are behind me).  We had made plans to meet up that fell through, but I assumed I would see her sooner rather than later.  However, the message she sent me on the 2nd broke my heart.  She was on her way to the hospital, having lost her baby.

I have gotten those calls and messages so many times, 3 times in just the last year.  I have stood by a different friend who had two stillbirths, both at times during which I was pregnant.  One of my Froglets shares a name with one of her loss babies.  You all remember my cousin Vee who lost both her daughter ER and another baby during early pregnancy.  I lost both my own ER in infancy to SIDS and the next baby to early miscarriage.  Another friend of mine has lost 5 sweet Froglets of her own.  Still another lost a baby midway through her pregnancy, before the birth of her youngest.  For those of us who have lost their precious Froglets, there is a sweet innocence to our lives before loss that we will never get back.  Pregnancy is no longer just about cute baby things and gender and 10 months of anticipation.  There is also fear and dark dread, because we know first hand that bad things can and do happen.  Our excitement is tempered by caution and niggling whispers of “what-if”.  I would never ever wish that loss on anyone, and my heart breaks a little each time someone I know loses their innocence in this way.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.  October 15th is PAIL Awareness Day.  I had a post all planned out and then, things changed.  Changed like a carefree pregnancy that turns into a nightmare when you hear those words “There is no heartbeat.”  Kind of like the way a miscarriage’s beginning can stop you cold in your tracks.  Kind of the way you will never be the same after you realize just how long it has been since the baby kicked or moved and why WON’T she kick or move?  Or even the way your life changes when you go to pick up your sleeping baby and realize he will never wake up again.  Yeah it changed like that.  Because all those who have been through a pregnancy or infant loss and all those who will go through it or know someone who has or will- they deserve more than a comfortable stand-pat post about PAIL awareness.  I deserve more than that.  I deserve to be mad and sad and to have the freedom to say this to people: I KNOW IT SUCKS AND ITS SCARY BUT IT HAPPENS.  IT HAPPENED TO ME AND IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU.  I HOPE IT WON’T BUT YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT IT CAN.  PREGNANCY AND INFANT LOSS IS NOT A DISEASE, IT IS NOT SOMETHING WE CHOSE.

If it was a disease, or it was a choice we would have support, and the world would treat us kindly.  Instead the world tells us that our grief is too much and we should move on, because “it was meant to be” or “there was something wrong with that baby” or “its for the best” or even “you can always have another baby later.”  We don’t say those things to people who have lost a pet, but its okay to say them to someone who has lost a child?  I get it and I can hear you already.  Not everyone has to deal with those comments.  But most of us do.  And I know I can hear you again.  People mean well, you are saying,  They aren’t trying to make you feel bad.  Yes, I agree with you.  Most people don’t mean to make things worse, but Pregnancy and Infant Loss is such a dirty word in our culture.  We do not prepare people for how to handle it when it happens to them and we don’t teach them how to handle it when it happens to others.  There is a basic set of ettiquette that is followed with someone who loses a parents, or a spouse.  No one has ever said, “Well Joan, you can always find another husband.  There was probably something wrong with that one anyway, and he would have just had problems for his entire life.”  And no one ever says, “Well golly Pete.  I know she was your mom and you  miss her, but you are really bringing me down talking about her all the time.  After all, I am afraid that my own mom might die and it makes me feel better if you don’t mention yours.  And please do not ever show me pictures of her.”

 Part of the problem is that pregnancy is such an intimate relationship.  As a Mama Frog, before my baby is ever born I have an entire relationship with that child that continues after birth.  The rest of the world (and even to some extent Papa Frogs) don’t have a relationship with that child until AFTER it is born.  That makes pregnancy loss a deeply personal thing.  The other issue is our attempt to define life.  By opening the door for abortions, we must completely disregard a fetus as a life until it reaches a certain age.  But I promise you, any Mama who is in the midst of an early miscarriage is mourning the loss of her baby, not a “clump of cells”.  The rest of the problem, I believe lays in our almost superstitious belief that if we acknowledge that loss happens, it will happen to us.  You may disagree but until you have walked this path, you don’t truly see it.  I promise you that.  You do not see it the way those of us with losses do.

I will never forget, about 3 years after ER died, I got a Mothering Magazine in which a mama had written a beautiful and heartbreaking account of her stillbirth.  There were pictures of her baby (what mama does not want to show off her baby) and the most eloquent account of that baby’s life and death.  I was touched, floored.  I wept for that mama, but I wept as well because this magazine had taken such a step to actually bring loss out of the closet and shine a light on it and say “This happens.”  I wrote in, one of the only times I have ever written into a magazine, and thanked them from a loss mama for their courage in publishing that story and thanked that mama for sharing her baby with the world.

The next month, in that same magazine, the letters to the editor page was flooded, not with letters like mine, but letters decrying the magazine and scolding them for traumatizing pregnant women, threatening to cancel subscriptions and warning that now this magazine was being hidden away instead of shared.  All because OF ONE LOSS STORY!  As though the words on the pages would reach out and steal the life away from every pregnant belly it touched.  Those letters made me weep different tears, because I realized that what I saw originally as a step forward was barely a tippy-toe baby step forward.

One year later, I was staying at my Aunt Ro’s house and she had a stack of Mothering Magazines in a basket. In the back of one of the issues, I found my letter to the editor, along with a couple of others, telling of how that Mama’s courage had touched us.  But it was a month later than the reactive letters, and published quietly.  There is one thing I did take from that though.  Behind all the craziness us loss parents, we stick together.  We band together and we provide a safe haven for each other to talk and share and remember.  It breaks my heart to be part of that community, but it means everything to me.  And I find solace knowing that I can step in and let my friends know they aren’t alone.  It is a hellish road I wish no parent had to walk.  But barring that, no one should ever walk it alone.

Tiny Tadpole Sprouts Legs- Or How My Baby Turned One- Or Where Has The Last Year Gone

September 3rd, 2013, Papa Frog and I welcomed Tiny Tadpole into our arms, although he was already in our hearts.  Tiny Tadpole is the youngest of our children, and barring some miracle, our last.  There were many parallels between my pregnancy with him and E.  And although E was not our first child, he was our first son, and in many ways it seems as though Tiny Tadpole has closed that circle.  The last year has been an amazing adventure, watching Tiny Tadpole grow more fully into himself.  He has remained a chill guy, laid back and easy going, ready to smile and chuckle in his deep little voice.  It has been bittersweet to watch his firsts and anticipate his lasts, because well they are my last firsts and my last lasts.  With four adoring sisters and an amazing big brother to guide him, Tiny Tadpole is surrounded by nothing but love and brings nothing but joy.  That is not to say he isn’t a rascal.  Because he is.  It’s just to say that while I can hardly see my baby anymore in those chubby cheeks, I can look back at his baby pictures and see the boy he would grow into by his first birthday. 

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Tiny Tadpole’s birth was not what I imagined it would be (seldom are they I suppose).  It was difficult to go through and difficult to look back on.  I have learned through his birth, if nothing else, that just because I struggled with his entrance into this world, it is worth fighting every day because he is here.   I wanted to take a minute and share with you TIny’s first birthday- may it be the first of too many to count!

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Candles Burning and Babies Lost

Normally here on the Pond, we like to keep things fun or at the least entertaining.  But yesterday was a day of remembrance and sadness.  For those who are more familiar with this Mama Frog, you know that almost 10 years ago our family was touched by the loss of our son E.R.  He died on Christmas morning from SIDS at 16 days old.  Several months later we also lost a little one to miscarriage.  We have been blessed by the addition of 5 more healthy children, but the losses of our two babies has forever shaped our family.  Pregnancies are no longer innocent events, Christmas has become a much sadder season and I have become a part of a community that I would have never thought I would belong to- the pregnancy and infant loss world.  So many of my friends are celebrating the lives of their babies, cut too short, and watching in sad-joy as their rainbow babies reach the milestones their angel babies never will.  And for some of those friends, babies in heaven are all they will ever have.  After almost 10 years of living with the loss of E.R. you would think that it would be mostly a dull pain now.  Most of the time, you would be right.  Every time I look at my Froglets I see one missing, but I have accepted the loss of my son the best way I can.  However, sometimes things happen and our lives are touched in ways that impact us deeply.

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Flashback 361 days ago.  I was 5 months pregnant with Tiny Tadpole, and excited by the group of pregnant mamas around me.  Among those was my sweet cousin.  Recently married, she and her husband were expecting their first baby.  Due on her birthday, at the end of July, my cousin was full of innocence and wide-eyed wonder at this miracle of conception, growing life and birthing babies.  I have to admit, my birthing history has been rough (more so than I am willing to get into for this internet space) and I was feeling pangs of jealousy for the birth I knew she would have.  Then, on June 3rd, I got a message from my aunt Ro telling me that my cousin, kind, lovely Vee had lost her baby.  The day of their baby shower no less.  I can only imagine that devastation, that utter heart-break.  What I don’t have to imagine is the way I felt, my world spinning, cradling my own pregnant belly and sobbing into my husband’s arms.  Stillbirth is my biggest baby fear.  I have lived through SIDS and miscarriage.  What I have never had to live through is a baby waiting dead inside my belly to be birthed.  Stillbirth.  Vee, who is honestly one of the most lovely women I have ever had the privilege to know was struck by the ugly hand of baby loss- forever marred by its cruelness.

 

I wracked my brain for things that would have helped me when E.R. died.  I have so few pictures of him, no memories after screaming for my husband to come- that something was wrong with him.  Luckily my Aunt Ro is as awesome as her daughter and went to work amid her own grief helping locate a pregnancy loss doula, and made sure there were lots of pictures.  And on June 5, 2013, Vee gave birth to her darling sleeping daughter, the spitting image of both her mama and daddy.  Although the birth was over, I knew, as I still know that Vee had/has a long road ahead of her.  Grief is a very demanding emotion.  I could only hope that I would be able to offer her a safe place as she began this journey through loss.  It has been hard, from this side of loss, to reach out to her- harder than I imagined.  While she was moving across country and trying to put her life back together, I was giving birth to Tiny Tadpole.  As she celebrates the milestones her baby (also an E.R.) will never reach, I am sharing Tiny’s milestones with my friends and family across Facebook.

 

Yesterday was her daughter’s birthday.  One year gone.  Yesterday I lit a pink candle and along with friends and family remembered a tiny life that ended too soon and honored one of the strongest mamas I know- strong not because she isn’t scared and sad.  But strong because she keeps going.  Every day.

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My Froglets know about death- they know they have a brother that is no longer here.  They know that sometimes mamas lose babies.   And yesterday, we talked about those babies we know about (and we know a lot) who are no longer with us.  And they each spent some time watching our little pink candle burn in honor of little E.R., Vee’s daughter.  Always remembered.