April 27, 2012

Home is wherever I'm with you

This song has nothing to do with this post really, but is just a fun song I've been listening to of late.



And while we didn't travel to Alabama or Arkansas, we did go to Colorado, California, and New York within the last three weeks. Poor Finn has a little cold now, but I'm not surprised after so much travel. He was a trooper and for the most part, got progressively better on each flight which was awesome.

 Ok, here's a brief (ish) recap of each trip.

Colorado:

Easter weekend was spent out in Colorado visiting my sister Kate and "Uncle" Marty (I wouldn't have to use quotes if he'd hurry up and marry my sister already). It was a fun trip and Miles' first time out to Denver. We spent Easter Sunday with Kate's friends who had a baby on June 13, 2011 at 6:35pm. Finn was born June 13th at 6:32pm. Kinda crazy right? Their 3-minute younger son towered over sweet Finn, our little peanut. While there, we went on a brewery tour of the Coors brewery, soaked up the nice weather, went for runs, relaxed and just hung out. It was great - can't wait to go back.

 Loving his Aunt Kate

 All responsible parents take brewery tours with their children.

Hiking in Red Rocks
California:

California is home (for now) to Miles' older brother Jared and his wife Jenny. The main point of the visit was to meet our nephew Maddox for the first time. And of course to spend time with the rest of the family which includes 2 1/2 year old Carson. Carson is still obsessed with our dog Roscoe and probably would have preferred that he visit instead of us. The first couple of days were met with gloomy, rainy weather which we somehow always seem to bring with us when we visit. We celebrated Miles' birthday (same day as Finn's 10 month birthday) and just enjoyed our time with one another.

 Fascinated with cousin Carson

 Get used to it boys. There will be more of this in Texas.
 A chilly day on the beach. How beautiful is my sister-in-law!?

Brothers, babies, cousins, oh my!

New York:

We went to New York as Miles and I were invited to sit on a panel at West Point to discuss Army Family life as part of a conference for the graduating seniors. We first stopped in the city to visit Miles' Aunt, Uncle, and Grandmother on his dad's side. His grandmother, Abuela as she's called, speaks Spanish and very little English. We speak poor Spanish and very little of it, so until the rest of his family arrived, we tried our best to not totally botch conversation. She could not have been more sweet with Finley and while signing to him (en espaƱol no less) he started clapping for the first time. Maybe he's got a knack for languages. After our visit we drove up to West Point where we spent this past week. The purpose of the panel was to show cadets different family dynamics and just give them a better idea of Army Family life. Since we are/were a dual military couple we answered questions that some of the cadets had in regards to what it's like being dual military. It was a good panel and I think worthwhile, but what was more impressive to me was another panel for the cadets composed of some wounded Soldiers (all recent grads of the academy). One had limb salvage surgery on his foot, shrapnel in his leg, and very openly and candidly talked about his bout with depression and PTSD. Another is a triple amputee (below the knee on one leg, above the knee on the other, and missing his right hand), and the third guy is a double amputee (both below the knee). These guys were amazing. Their words and stories were amazing. It was humbling to be around them and just incredibly inspiring.

I'm not going to lie, I really enjoyed going back to West Point. It was a total trip down memory lane and reminded me of so many good times there. The best part though was getting to visit Daren. It was the first time we have been back since his funeral and the first time we saw in person his headstone. I really miss Daren. I never dreamed this is how my son would "meet" him. But it felt nice to go spend a little bit of time with him. Miles brought a Yuengling and drank one for him. And it was really wonderful to see that Daren is visited often. In fact, one of the three star generals who was at this same conference had gone to pay his respects. Daren's in a place where he will never be alone and will always be honored and that is an incredible thing. It's what he deserves.

So many cadets came up to us and shared stories of Daren 
and told us what a great guy he was. 

 My sponsor family from when I was a cadet.

Forced to take a trip down memory lane with Mom.

Finn's Great Uncle Lawrence who is a NYC Cop


And now we are finally home. For a couple months anyway and then we're Texas bound (for good).


 

April 19, 2012

The Bereaved

I'm sure many of you have heard in the news the terrible story of the woman who was shot multiple times outside a pediatric clinic in Texas as her newborn son was abducted. Fortunately the baby has since been returned to his family, but will grow up without his mother. The woman accused of the murder and abduction had reportedly just had a miscarriage and told her fiance that she had given birth to his baby.

It's a sick and horrible thing and part of what upsets me is how this may portray those in the baby loss community. It reminded me of an episode from the show Private Practice in which one of the main characters who is pregnant, is tied up and temporarily paralyzed by a crazed and desperate woman who had recently lost a baby and in her delusional state thinks that the pregnant woman is carrying her child. She basically performs an at home C-Section and leaves the woman for dead. Granted it's a TV show and the baby ends up being taken to the hospital, crazy woman arrested, main character lives, yadda, yadda . . . yet again it's the portrayal of a woman who goes bat-shit crazy after losing her child.

And I wish I could say that it's not like that in real life. But this woman in Texas proves otherwise. But I can say, for the most part, that is so very far from the truth. I've lost a son. I've given birth to a baby who didn't cry upon delivery and left the hospital with a small box of mementos instead of a newborn safely buckled into his car seat. I lost a piece of my heart and became one of the hundreds of thousands of women who are an unfortunate statistic. But while it may not have felt like it early on, I didn't totally lose my mind. I didn't for once think to do something so horrible and drastic like steal another woman's child. Sure, I became one of the bereaved, but I became a person who had to figure out how to live life again with someone I never had to begin with and in doing so I have met and encountered so many others who have been there - before me, with me, and sadly who continue to be after me. Who have survived. Who have, in a sense, triumphed over this awful and horrible loss that at times feels like it can consume you by simply getting up each day and doing our best to live life again. I have found some incredibly passionate and strong and beautiful voices in the baby loss community. People who are normal and inspiring. Our tragic experiences may have forever changed us, but I truly feel that each one of us has gained some intangible strengths and genuine qualities that are a result of these brief and powerful lives that touched ours for far too short of a time.

When I was pregnant with Finn, and would see other pregnant woman I would often get a twinge of bitterness. I would unfairly assume that they didn't know how lucky they were or how good they had it. But I would (and still do) try to remind myself that I don't know every one's story. I don't know what people have been through and what burdens they are carrying with them every day. Because the bereaved are all around us. I sometimes wonder what people see when they meet my husband. Upon first glance you probably don't see a man who in the span of eight months lost his son and his brother. Because somehow, someway he didn't totally lose himself. Which is kind of amazing if you think about it. But it's the only life he's been given and it's the way it is. And we are certainly not the only people affected by tragedy.

In fact, what I have learned is that the bereaved are some of the most beautiful people I know.


April 17, 2012

Avery

I have lots to share. We've had a whirlwind couple of weeks. First we flew to Colorado to visit my wonderful sister over Easter. Then back to Georgia for less than 48 hours and then we were back in the air headed to California to visit Miles' older brother and his family which includes my new(ish), sweet little nephew Maddox. That flight had a connection on both legs, so really over the last two weeks we have been on six different flights. And we aren't even done! We got back super early this morning and have a little bit of time at home before we head to New York for a few days. Yeesh. Traveling with a baby sure does change things. We've become great at security and navigating quickly through the airport, but flying is stressful when you are trying desperately not to be those people with the screaming kid. Needless to say we were on several occasions where one minute of fussiness felt like ten. But overall, Finn did great and has done a really good job adjusting to different time changes so I really can't complain too much. In fact, I really can't complain at all.

But. . . before I download and sort through all the pictures and share more about our trips, I wanted to share something that pulled at my heartstrings recently. I stumbled upon this blog and just had to share. This is the story of 5 month old Avery Canahuati who has been diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that will ultimately end her life, most likely withing the next 18 months. Her parents are working on her Bucket List, striving to let their little girl experience so much of life and record it in the process, all the while educating us on SMA.

It's a beautiful portrayal of life and love and while it's heartbreaking to know how this will ultimately end for little Avery, I think it's wonderful that her life and her story are being shared with so many. So please take the time to read about SMA and about Avery and send some love to her parents too.

April 2, 2012

Oh, hello grief.

Cale was heavy on my heart this weekend. Or maybe it's that my grief was. The two - Cale and grief - are so intertwined that it's hard to separate. On Saturday we got a last minute call from a realtor asking if she could show the house. Not wanting to turn down a showing we frantically ran around cleaning up and putting things away. This includes Cale's urn. An urn probably just isn't something you should have on display for potential buyers. And it's not that it makes me sad - it's just strange. Strange that my reality includes putting away the baby toys, clothes, paperwork, . . .and an urn.

Fast forward a few hours and we were getting ready to go to some friends' house for dinner. I put on a shirt that I wore at Cale's baby shower. I have several items of clothing that I associate with him. Obviously some maternity clothes, but also some non maternity things that I just remember wearing during my time with him. When we got to our friends they had also invited another couple who we had never met before. This couple was excitedly expecting their first child soon and recently found out they are having a boy. Over the course of the night they asked me questions about Finley and when he hit certain milestones, how I liked certain toys or baby items, etc. But nothing ever came up that was specific to pregnancy or delivery or anything that would cause me to bring up, either by want or necessity, that we had a baby before Finley . . .until one point during dinner when this expectant mom said that she did not purchase any of the pregnancy books because she heard they can cause you to worry too much and that "so far, she had no reason to be concerned." But I didn't say anything. I just looked down at my plate and thought of all the things I could say. I could say that I too had no reason to be concerned during my first pregnancy. That it was textbook up until the very end. I could say that just because you have no reason to be concerned doesn't mean things can't go wrong. Or that those books sometimes, but rarely, highlight things that you should be aware of during your pregnancy. But again, I didn't say any of that. I'm not really sure why, but I guess it's because I want Cale's life to positively impact people instead of just scare them. And when I do bring up Cale it conversation, I'd rather it be in a more uplifting context - if that's even possible.

When we got home that night, I looked at Cale's pictures. I still sometimes feel dumbfounded by it all. That a perfectly formed and developed and beautiful baby could not make it because of a freak cord accident. And for a little bit, I was consumed by the sadness of it all. I can't take comfort in the memories or time spent with him because we were robbed of all of it. In one of my books about stillbirth, one woman writes about some of these exact same sentiments and she writes about wanting to show people what it's like to live with this loss:

"I wish there were a way to explain what living with the loss of your child is like. I wish that, every once in a while, the world would stop. I wish that, in that moment, I could show you what it is that I, that we, have lived through. I wish that I could show you all that I lost, and I wish that I could show you, that I could introduce you to, the child that I am living without. I wish. I wish . . . "

And that's what I wish for Cale. That's what I wish I could have done the other night with that expectant mom. I didn't want to just interject that I lost a child. I wanted her to know so much more than that - to know Cale and the profound loss that he was. Not just a scary story, but a person - a baby who somehow, in nine months in utero, lived a life so full of meaning an purpose that he forever changed me as a result.

I wish there was a way, and maybe there is, to convey all this to someone I meet for the first time. To strangers we probably won't run into again. But it's a lot and it's heavy and takes time, at least for me, to really tell Cale's story and do it justice in the process. I just wish it were easier. I wish I didn't have to do it at all. . .