I had another blog post all ready to go today about 'guilt' but something happened earlier while I was working my part-time job at the rehab hospital. You see I work mainly in a pediatric setting but will pick up shifts in adult rehab facility. I like the change and lately the anonymity that comes along with working on a unit that I barely know anyone. A sweet nurse, kindly asked me as I was leaving for the day, "So, how old is that baby now?" I paused to make sure I hadn't in fact died. I've been told congratulations from some poor, unknowing strangers or Beau has been asked how she's doing but I hadn't had anyone ask after her in that way. I thought 4 months, she should be 4 months. But should I count from the day she died or her due date? Then she'd be 3 months, cooing and smiling. That always messes me up. Like when I've been asked her birthday and her death day on forms. Should I draw a little arrow to reverse them because Piper died before she was born? I mumbled something how she had passed in July, I'm doing as well as expected then high tailed it to my car where I sobbed for 15 minutes before I could navigate home. Sometimes an encounter like that will leave me breathless and out of sorts for the rest of the day.
I've been back at work for over a month. All that know me or have read about how devastated I was to have to go back, I thought I'd grace ya with a little update. Now I had planned on transitioning to part time after Pipes but came back with some more hours. My job has been gracious in letting me have some flexibility. The first few days were horrible, awful, terrible. You get the idea. I cried on the way to work, at work and all the way home. Gone was the safety of my home and the freedom to participate in my organized grieving. I could no longer at any given moment dissolve.
The very first day back I awoke with the thought: I should be readying Piper for a drop off at a grandparents'. Open the flood gates and just rip my heart out because I'm certain it's not beating anyhow. I faced some rough moments of being congratulated on the baby and more chit-chat then I had heard in over three months. I was anxious, overwhelmed and sad. I felt foggy and inefficient. I continue to struggle when I work with babies born in to not ideal situations. I question the universe and it's fairness. As the weeks tick by, I still have tough days. Sometimes the act of normalcy for a ten hour shift, leaves me emotionally exhausted.
Slowly, I've began to stabilize. I want people to know that it does get easier. I believed no one when they said this and you won't believe me either so here it is in writing. When you are on the roller coaster from hell, can't get off, but it does go up.
I forced myself, little by little, to list why I am thankful for being at work. Try it, it's hard. I was and continue to be grumpy about it. Here are a few things:
I get to be around bright women who lift me up. They know what happened and can respect my distance and need for professionalism. Getting up and going to work, gives me a sense of routine. A sense of purpose. I cannot care for Piper earth side so helping other families is fulfilling. I get to play with adorable children and provide interventions to hopefully make their future's brighter. I'm making money that will allow me to travel, eat, live and ok, buy cute hats. I went to school for a looong time and should put all that education to good use. Having something outside of the home, gives me unique experiences to bring back to the table. It distracts my mind so that I am not constantly crying or binge watching Parks and Rec. It allows for some compartmentalization. Here is my pain and it can coexist with a functional life. It's putting one foot in front of the other, although heavy, it's in the right general direction.
Sometimes the the hard thing is the right thing or some grown up thing like that. Being a working Mom of none is hard stuff.
I miss you so much and everything that was to come after you. Rest easy, my sweet baby girl.
Infant loss and awareness month. I had no idea this was recognized in it's own entire month because I lived in a happy, blissful pregnancy haze where nothing could happen to MY baby. Well, it did. I am now the scary statistic, the one in four women who experience loss. The one in 160 who experience stillbirth. The one in 2,000 that experience a true knot. If you are sensing bitterness, you'd be correct. I'm experimenting with the anger stage right now. Be careful, this might not be for the faint of heart.
Strangers and people I have known for years, opened up their lives to me and shared their own stories. It took Piper's death for other women to share or maybe for me to actively listen. The topic is glanced at, carefully out the corner of your eyes as to not really see it. Why? Because is horrid. Hearing about how my child died, or any one, ever, must be gut wrenching. I know it is for me. But it happens and people need to be able to talk and hear about it. For the record, my record, I think sharing is the best form of therapy. I like to have it all out in the open and from what I am learning other people need to talk about their loved ones too, whether it's been a month or 20 years. Lots of love for all the people who have listened to me share about my daughter. I hope this month gives freedom to all the families to talk and cry out loud.
Sometimes light blooms from the dark or some cliche like that. But awareness can bring empathy, fund research, encourage prevention and give some grieving mamas a moment to tell the whole world about the beautiful thing they did. I was really hesitant to attend the Walk to Remember put on by the hospital. Not only was I having a bit of anxiety about being near the hospital I delivered at, I was anxious about the whole thing. All those feels. Good thing my sister-in- law, Carly, gave me a gentle nudge and we attended along with my niece and some tribe members. It was lovely to be surrounded by people who wanted to honor, love and send positive energy out in to the world. It did my soul some good.
Something pulled me in here to write this tonight. I had no intention of including this in my public rants but I am really striving for a raw look at what this journey looks like for me. I am equally thankful and pissed off this month exists. I am happy my daughter was so beautifully remembered and I'm sick that she isn't here with me. My heart felt like it my burst from all the sadness, love and courage that walk acknowledged. So I guess my point, yes I do have one, is you can feel whatever you want. I pile on the emotions like a buffet. Today I am mad, a little sad and a side of OK. I hope that my strength continues to be my badge but I want people to know the struggle is real, present and daily.
Rest easy PKB.
A bit of the lovely tribute, Carly, made to Pipes:
"Kai means ocean. Our family often finds ourselves on the beach, whether on vacation, on a walk, or just to watch the waves meet the sand. There is something powerful, beautiful and even breathtaking about the ocean. We each time, are reminded of our sweet Piper Kai. She never did take her first breath, but Piper Kai will always be loved beyond measure by her mother, father, grandparents, family and friends. We will never forget her, her beauty and how she has in her own way shaped our lives."
So all the feels.
The Piper pudge is the extra inches of love I can pinch on my stomach. OK, pinch all around. I have affectionately named it, so I can be nice to myself. I spent 9 months eating ALL the carbs racking up nearly 50 lbs. Big shout out to my Mom's banana pudding.
Aside from the first trimester nausea, I generally enjoyed being pregnant. My husband thought I was a fox. I adored that big belly and all of her wiggles. And let me be clear right now, I was not all belly. My pinky toe gained weight.
I suspect most women are mean to their bodies and participate in negative 'self-talk'. Me included. I'd wail about how my jeans were too tight or this shirt gives me back fat. I'm guilty of cornering Beau and demanding, "Does this make me look fat?", on more than one occasion. I've counted calories and adhered to regular exercise.
I've chatted with other moms who have lost children about the body after baby, without the baby. The weight gain, hips widening, breasts swelling then deflating, the stretch marks. It's a constant reminder of how you spent the last months and the child who is not here. There's this feeling of betrayal. That your body did not carry out the job you had entrusted it with. It can spiral into a special kind of negative chatter.
After Piper, I saw myself in a different light. It was delightfully surprising. I'd think, I'm a warrior. I grew a human being. This body survived growing, birthing and losing a daughter. I'd want Piper to love herself for no matter how she looked or what she weighed so I'd better start right now with myself. I can make this choice for her.
All the ladies, please be gentle with yourselves. I can tell you there are worse things than your jeans not zipping. I run to eat so I am no stranger to the game. I know with diet, exercise and time my Piper pudge will begin to fade. And I'll miss it. But I hope my warrior mentality sticks around.
Rest easy Piper Kai.
Sometimes I feel as if losing Piper only happened to me, grief is a selfish beast. But Beau lost our girl, too. When two who should have been three, become two again. It's tricky business. So I've been dating my husband. It's like starting all over again with these new versions of ourselves. In the first few weeks I had to remind myself to ask him about his life. I debated setting an alarm in my phone to remind myself to do this simple act because when you are grieving, chit-chat is not on the agenda. Also, not on the agenda: wife chores. I don't know who does what in your house but this type-A Momma has done the laundry, grocery shopping and yelling at the cable guy for roughly 6 years...Those were hard to do with my face in brownies and ugly crying.
In most things that I've read since loosing Piper, in big red letters it says watch out, marital issues ahead. There are and have been bumps and pain and all the things that come with child loss. But above all else there is love. There are the hugs at 4 a.m. There is the kindness, there is the laughter and there is us. Forever changed but making a choice to survive this together.
Oh and by the way, Happy 3rd Anniversary to you babe! Thanks for being the most amazing father to our girl. The best way you could show her how much you love her is by loving me.
Rest easy Pipes. Mom and Dad love you.
Return To Work. I have to go back tomorrow. I have to sit in the last place I was exactly three months to the day that I lost you. I sat in that office chair willing you to move. I still can't seem shake the fact that I should have spent the last three months at home with you. Learning your tiny baby habits and keeping you mostly to myself. Probably not sleeping and arguing with Daddy about the last person to change a diaper. I would have held you during your nap times because you are only little once. Also, to make sure your were breathing. I hear that's a first time Mom thing to do. I would have breathed in that just washed baby smell. Every coo and smile. I do not think I'll ever by ever to rid that feeling when I am home alone you should be here too.
I would have worked some after you had arrived. I would have packed you up and shipped your off to one or more willing grandparent to fill your days being spoiled. I don't know what to do with my life now that I'm forced to live it without you. But we both know simply existing is not an option. Living is the choice.Tomorrow, I'll have first day butterflies but I'll go and smile and work and cry in the car. I'll let your light shine through me.
You may not be here but I am still your Mom. I miss you everyday.
Rest easy Piper Kai.
Piper Kai Bennett
I will scream, sing and share her story may it be short. Our only child was born still at 36 weeks secondary to an umbilical cord accident. This is our journey about choosing life rather than existence.