Sunday, August 25, 2013

Memorial for Joe

Six months and ten days

(To join us for a candle lighting tribute to Joe )

click on the link above for details.

Thank you for all the kind words and messages of support.  We thought this would be a nice way to be together even for a few minutes no matter where you are.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rabbit stew - Still not six months

I did something a little out of character last week.  I went to see a medium.  Not that I don’t know where Joe is – I guess I wanted to know if he was in turmoil or unhappy that I’m having a baby.  And the verdict is…..dat dat dat dah….I have no idea.   I know a lot of people try the same thing to find peace after a loved one dies and some people absolutely get peace from it.  I did not.  I kept waiting for something that only Joe would know or maybe to hear that someone else who had passed away was coming through.  And alas, I am left with memories that I already had and what I think my loved ones would want to say.

I was on a Facebook page for lost babies and saw a medium who had a waiting list for ‘readings across the miles.’  Apparently she had suffered a loss as well so that gave her license to peddle to bereaved moms.  It’s a lucrative market.  I went to someone who did not advertise, who was recommended by people who had great experiences there.  I just didn’t get a mind-blowing convincing read.

The weird thing was the conversation in between ‘messages.’  The stuff this woman talked about in passing resonated with me.

She talked about Joe’s story impacting people.  That people from all over were hearing about Joe and he was making a difference in a lot of people’s lives.  I had to ask if any of them would ever tell me or Joe’s dad about that impact.  She explained some folks are young souls and simply cannot see the world outside themselves.  They see things like Joe’s death only for how it affects them.  They love chaos and will sometimes go out of their way to cause it.  They are incapable of feeling empathy but not because they are bad people – they just have young souls who have not yet learned how to be, or act, or care in a way that’s helpful to others.

This medium said maybe this new baby would be an easier channel for people to reach out and I had to ask – even though I wasn’t really buying into the whole talking to the dead, messages from beyond idea – will Joe help me to forgive these people who have let us down when we needed them?

I know mediums aren’t for everyone.  I don’t know that I would ever go back or even if I would try again with a new medium.

When I came home, I felt sick to my stomach for the rest of the evening and had to be alone.  The next morning, I woke up with a sense of something I had not felt before.  I don’t know that Joe came through in my session with the medium but he certainly paid me a visit in his own way.

I go to a grief support group and the coordinator keeps talking about doing the work – not avoiding the grief – and insists that a goodbye ritual is necessary for healing.  She says even women who enter menopause are encouraged to do something to mark the end of their fertility because it, too, is a loss.

I’ve rolled my eyes each time she’s mentioned those ideas.  I’m going to a support group.  I write about Joe.  I go to counseling TWICE a week.  How much more work can I do?

I don’t want to do a goodbye ritual because I don’t want to say goodbye to Joe.  When I ‘sit with my grief’ I just pray that I’ll stop breathing so I don’t have to feel what comes out.  A month ago I finally got the guts together to get Joe’s death certificate and it was a wreck.  They had called him Baby Linegar and crossed out that and put Joe G. Morgan in there and then someone had written above the middle initial – rayson.  It was not at all what a person deserves.  His poor little name appears on one document. 
Normally I’d be outraged but the idea of going back to my OB or the funeral home to flip out or demand a new one…I’m out of fight.  I can’t yell Joe’s name ever again in anger. 

One thing I’ve learned is that the world is not going to give me a break because Joe died.  They are going to continue being assholes no matter what happened.  That has given me some peace to realize that.  No more than I get special treatment because I’m pregnant.  People don’t reach back to hold the door for a second to let me through.  I don’t get let though the Dunkin Donuts line when I’m nauseous holding a toddler that was promised a sprinkle donut.  It’s okay.  It just means I need to treat myself special.

See how I ramble when I talk about things that make me uncomfortable?

I didn’t hold a memorial or ask a church to hold a service for Joe because I was afraid it would be me, H and J sitting at an empty funeral.  It was a good excuse not to mark Joe’s life because ultimately, I didn’t want to face what happened.  I cancelled the urn we ordered the day Joe died.  I said it was because the funeral director was a jerk and he was, but I felt like the clover leaf I had engraved on the urn was too flip and almost mocking.  I felt lucky and blessed to be Joe’s mother.  I felt drawn to the Irish blessing and I knew the second I got pregnant this time that I was carrying Joe’s Irish twin.  I was angry at myself for feeling any peace at all.

So here I am, six months later, planning a memorial.  Not that I’m comfortable with it all of a sudden.  I’m turning inside out.  It took about six different nights sitting in front of the computer searching for urns.  I could go to another funeral home and see their displays but that’s not on my list of capabilities either.  I did finally find a small wooden memory box with the entire Irish blessing and it will have Joe’s name engraved on it.  His full name - Joe Grayson Morgan.  I’m not ready to transfer the ashes.  I haven’t even opened the package they came in.

I ordered some candle holders that have the Irish blessing on them.  I ordered a giant door hanging with the blessing inscribed on it that will not have Joe’s name but it will be over our entranceway and I know all three of us, eventually four of us, will add Joe’s name to it every time we come in the house.  I’ve ordered some oxalis (shamrock) plants.  They look like clover leaves with tiny white blossoms.  They are easy to care for, love being watered, survive indoors in winter and outdoors in summer and can last for more than a dozen years.  I made a new friend at Falmouth Flowers because of Joe but that story is for another blog post.

I felt it was necessary to mark Joe’s life before I can even begin to develop a relationship with this new life growing in my belly.  I wish I could say it’s been seamless and easy to do that but the feeling is a lot like the day Joe died.  When I was refusing to leave the room at Maternal Fetal Medicine until someone told me where I was going to get a toothbrush for my hospital stay. Picture Bugs Bunny when he’s being forced into the stew pot.  It’s not pretty and I’m anything but graceful.

Since placing all the orders, I’ve started having panic attacks again.  The urge to get out of Portland has been overwhelming.  I know I should be here to accept the packages but I just want to put the mail on hold and go camping somewhere that I can’t get phone signal.  Like a lot of mistakes I almost made since losing Joe, leaving town is impossible right now.  Today for example it’s pouring rain and our tent is less than ideal for monsoon weather. 

I know without question Joe has been watching over me since he left.  Sometimes he points me in the right direction.  Sometimes he puts people in my path that I so desperately need.  Sometimes he gives me just enough strength to breathe.  But he can’t change other people. He’s having a hard enough time changing me.  I want to be stronger and I want to be a better mom to him, to H, and to this new baby.  Before I can do that, I need to face that Joe is not here.  That Trisomy 13 stole him from me and I had a stillborn baby in February.  I need to face it to be more present with H and stop worrying every second that I’ll lose him too.  I need to face it before I can embrace a new child into our lives, before I go back to Maternal Fetal Medicine for this baby’s 20 week ultrasound where our whole world was derailed just six months ago.

I have also come to realize that any room that holds Joe’s remains, my son H and my husband J is a full room and more than enough to celebrate Joe’s short time with us.  Turns out I’ve always had everything and everyone I needed right here. 

The horror is not over for us but I have hope that someday it won’t feel quite as bad or raw. Just as the panic attacks eventually pass, so will my fear that facing my grief will be the end of me.  I have not dealt with Joe’s death.  I’ve gone through the motions and did all the textbook things a person should do to be healthy after a loss.  But my experience is tucked way back in a place I’m afraid to go.

My husband keeps telling me this is not saying goodbye, it’s finding a way to keep Joe in our lives.  I’ve really only ever lost one person that devastated me nearly as much as losing Joe and watching his casket be lowered into the ground was the worst.  But there was some healing in giving his eulogy and helping plan his service.  So I guess it’s a matter of reframing this.  It’s not a memorial, it’s a tribute.  And it’s a part of life just like birth is.  I think a person’s brain needs to see and touch death to really appreciate life.  No question about it – this sucks.  But it is nice at times to be in an empty room and feel someone I love beside me.  That’s comfort that even people who are alive and kicking can’t provide.

When all the items I’ve ordered arrive, we will light some candles and pick up our oxalis plants to honor Joe.  I don’t know what date that will be and I don’t know if I will share it.  I do know that writing about Joe has been a tremendous help.  Reading other blogs has also helped me.  One good turn deserves another.  Thank you for visiting.  I’m sorry for whatever your loss is that brought you here.  But I wish you peace and the strength to keep surviving.

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up the meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Changing providers

August 3, 2013
Not quite six months

Hi I’m Vickie and I’m a _________.

Depending on where you find yourself, you usually get two or three words to describe your life.  At R.A.D. classes I say that I’m not a police officer (most of the instructors are) but I have dealt with a LOT of them.  At yoga, I’m Vickie and I’m 15 weeks pregnant.  At the grief support group, I’m Vickie and I lost my son Joe to Trisomy 13 on February 15 of this year.  In another month, I will be Vickie, the full-time student.  At the park, I am H’s mom. 

Lots of labels and none seem to go together. That blank line should have the word misfit.

When I say I lost my son six months ago but I’m also pregnant, I lose my grieving card.  At prenatal classes, I am not the person anyone wants to sit next to for fear that they will catch stillbirth.  I don’t fit in anywhere.  At a kid’s clothing store the cashier asked me how far along I am and when I said 15 weeks she said wow, usually on your second you pop right away!  I didn’t bother to tell her it was my third.  She had a bulging little belly behind the counter – why ruin her day?

More than anything, I am grieving and anxious.  When I feel sad about Joe, I can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong with the baby.  This pregnancy has been smooth from the start although you would not know that to look at my medical chart.  I’ve had three ultrasounds, I’ve been in at least once a week to hear the heartbeat not to mention the phone calls and I haven’t even had my second scheduled visit yet.  They keep reassuring me that’s what they are there for and I feel like a lunatic that I’m not reassured yet and have to keep calling.

Since I mentioned this in an earlier post, I did change care providers.  I thanked my OB for taking such good care of me and hoped he would continue to be my gynecologist and if something were to go wrong, I wanted to leave the door open so I could at least get a second opinion on my pregnancy.  I have no idea what usually happens in those situations.  In mine, I was told good luck and good bye.  In writing.  Good times.

I am now seeing a group of midwives.  It’s a gigantic leap for me to go from specialized care and delivery in a facility that sometimes does seven or eight C-sections a day to one that does possibly one or two a week (that’s directly from a surgical tech at the hospital I’m hoping to go to).  Midwives and taking charge of my own care is all part of trusting my body to do what needs to be done and giving up on the idea that it’s better to live with the devil you know than the one you don’t know.

At my old practice, the day Joe died, I was sitting in the doctor’s office going over what would happen if the ultrasound confirmed no heartbeat.  The secretary buzzed in and said “They are waiting for Vickie at Maternal Fetal Medicine, she needs to get over there right now.”  The doctor told her we were talking and would be right out.  Keep in mind, my two year old and my husband were also in there asking questions and discussing what was about to happen to me – a person they loved and were worried about, since things don’t always go as planned and if I needed surgery or if this would take a few days, we wanted to know.  And also, I was not in a rush to deliver Joe.  I was very scared and I knew he wouldn’t come out on his own in the doctor’s office.

When we were leaving the office, the other secretaries were being very nice and I stopped to talk to them and the boss of the universe interrupted to tell me “Vickie you have to get over there NOW.”

Nobody said anything to her.  Everyone looked at their hands and I went off to deliver   my dead son, my son’s brother, my husband’s little boy.  I wish I could go back in time and tell her to go fuck herself and give me a goddamn second.

So when I called that day two months ago to tell that practice I was having a lot of anxiety about this new baby and hoped I could go to a different facility for the scan and possibly a little earlier appointment, what I expected was an absolutely,  whatever you need, you have been through enough. 

Refusing to even ask the doctor and telling me it wasn’t an emergency and then arguing with me and my husband is on the other end of the spectrum.  Telling me to start this pregnancy off ‘right’ is out of line.

In my world, anxiety is real.  Women’s feelings are real and they count.  If I’ve been up all night having flashbacks of Joe’s diagnosis and delivery, you better believe the next morning I am going to do what I can to relieve some of that stress.

And to put it in more concrete terms, if my pregnancy is bringing thousands of dollars into a practice, my concerns matter.  If they want to let someone with such wonderful people skills on the front lines and refuse to acknowledge her behavior, no sweat.  I won’t be darkening their door ever again.  

As for the switch to midwives, I struggled with the decision.  It seemed awfully crunchy and hippie dippie to me.  Turns out – I’m hippie dippie.   Multitudes of assholes in my life have made it hard to stay centered and true to that but I’m kind of a moon sister or earth mother or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know that I could ever make the switch to organic everything and patchouli and shoes made from dirt but mostly that’s because I’m afraid of germs and trying new things.

I have been to tour the birth center where the midwives deliver and believe it or not, they have IV poles, medical equipment, disinfectant – imagine!  A real hospital.  The difference is in their philosophy.  To let a low-risk woman labor and not rush into a cascade of interventions.  Nobody is going to put my baby at risk – especially me.  I just have no reason to EXPECT complications. 

It’s a huge change for me.  I'm not an optimist. If I hear myself laughing too hard, I catch myself wondering what bad news is on the way that will make me cry soon.  Peace makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t like that about myself so I’m trying to turn it around.  I don’t want my kids growing up with a pessimistic, paranoid, insecure Mama.  More than anything I want them to trust themselves and their instincts.  I don’t regret a single decision I’ve made when I listened to that inner voice. 

These days I let Joe guide me and he is unblemished and untainted by the ugliness that has pushed me at times to do what others wanted.  He is my guardian and I have to trust that he wouldn’t lead me or his Irish twin to harm.  Sometimes he puts an asshole on a front desk to warn me that I need to make a change.  Sometimes he puts a friendly neighbor on the lawn to welcome us to look at a new apartment.  Other times it’s a push to get out of bed and take care of my son which ultimately helps me heal more than pulling the covers over my head.

I don’t think there will ever come a day when I wouldn’t give my own life to give Joe a day here on earth.  To see my boys play together.  Joe’s short life and the lessons he left me with were a gift.  I wouldn’t change that.  Caring is always a risk.  Grief sucks but it just means I loved.  I regret nothing.

We will be holding a candle light memorial for Joe on August 25, 2013.  Please join us by lighting a candle wherever you are.  For updates and details, the link is here: Candle Light Memorial