No one.

As I reached into the back of my spice cabinet and felt them, I knew what they were. The numbers 3 & 0. They were my birthday candles; hot pink, and glittery on tiny little toothpicks. They were my favorite candles, and they were from my favorite birthday- My 30th. I was finally pregnant after all of our infertility treatments, and I was so happy. Shane and Landon went together to buy me a birthday present. They bought me a past present future ring that I’ve worn on my right ring finger ever since.

This is the only gift I have “from” Kenley. When I opened the gift, I imagined giving it to her when she was older, maybe on her high school graduation day. Maybe on her wedding day; it could be her something old. People don’t prepare you for these things.

No one ever tells you what happens after.

After the initial shock wears off.

After you wake up for consecutive days without the baby you carried for 9 months.

After you can so sadly say “I’m a survivor of child loss”.

No one ever tells you that every day is a fight; to get out of bed, to not fall apart every second of every day, to feel normal- whatever that new normal may be. No one ever tells you that you will feel like your body failed you; that you will hate yourself for what your body did to your child. You never hear about the judgement you will face, like you’re damaged goods, and now you’re less of a Mother because your child is dead. No one tells you that you will constantly replay the moments over and over in your head, no matter how hard you try to block them out; your memories become your nightmares.

No one tells you that somehow you make it through. Somehow you are still alive. Somehow you are still breathing, but you are not the same person as before. You will never be that person; that person died with the child you lost.

That person no longer exists.

I don’t know that I would have believed anyone, during the early days of grief, had they told me that eventually you just learn how to survive. Surviving doesn’t mean that things get easier; honestly, things get more complicated and weird as time goes on. Surviving doesn’t mean that you forgot, or ever will forget the child you lost, or that this child is any less loved than they were the moment you found out of their existence.

Surviving means that the love you have for that child transcends time and space.

Surviving means you are keeping the memory of your child alive.

Every day that I survive on this earth, is one day closer to my Daughter. 

face. 

Most days (now) I wake up and feel like I’ve lived a really bad dream for the past (almost) 18 months. It just doesn’t seem like this can be MY life. This type of stuff happens to other people, not to me. Not to my family; we had already faced so much when we found out Kenley died. How could we be dealt this hand, too? Why me? Why Shane? Why Landon? But most of all, why Kenley? My sweet girl. My innocent little baby…what did she do to deserve this? 

I often think of her, and what she would be doing these days. I find myself looking at her photo while feeding Alden. Staring at her, staring at both of them, hoping to see a similarity that I can cling to in my living child’s face. I usually come up empty handed. Alden is her own person, and I know that, but I wish I could see Kenley in her. 

People have asked me if I’ve called Alden by Kenley’s name. I haven’t yet, but it is only because I consciously tell myself that it is not her name. Every time I speak Alden’s name, Kenley’s name comes to my lips first. Always. I’m pretty sure this is normal, and I’m also sure it will be a life long battle in some capacity. 

I know that as Alden becomes her own person I will be able to separate them more. I only knew Kenley inside of me, and outside, even though she had passed away, for a few hours. I won’t ever really know her, because I already know all there is to know about her. I know the foods she liked, and the music she liked. 

She loved Mexican food, and Ceasar Salad from Panera Bread. 

She loved Christmas music. 

But, I will never know her favorite color, or if she would have been tall like me. What color eyes would she have had at Landon’s age? These are things I will always have to wonder about. I will get to see Alden become her own person, and every single day I am so thankful for that, but you know what? It still stings. I am not ok. I am not “better” because she is here; I am different, sure, but not better. My life will never be “better”- I’ve lost a child and that is something you cannot replace. 

Alden does not take Kenley’s place in my life or in our family. 

I read a quote the other day that said “I think hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go”.  

This rings so true with me. No matter the happiness I feel, no matter the joy and light that Alden brings to me, or the length of time that passes since Kenley’s birth, the scars of going through the deepest darkest  hell are still going to be there. I will be carrying the aftermath, my new life, the “hell”,  with me forever. 

Forever. 

This is my life, forever. Nothing can ever change that. Nothing can bring Kenley back, so this is it. 

I am the parent of a dead child. 

Forever

aftermath. 

Following the loss of a child, so many changes take place in us. Even our physical appearance changes. Our skin shows signs of aging. Many people say their hair turned white overnight. Others say they couldn’t see clearly–their eyesight changed. 

Mentally, we live in a fog. We can’t remember where we put things. We often get lost when driving to places such as the supermarket. We get confused. We cannot complete easy tasks. Our minds cannot focus. Physically, we might feel aches and pains we never had before. We might suffer from panic attacks. 

This is only a small peek inside the new life of grief that now belongs to parents of child loss. Losing a child is not a singular loss, but rather a series of losses that continues all of the days of our life. If only others understood the courage it takes for child loss parents to get out of bed and face each new day. 

• Silent Grief—Child Loss Support 

t-ball.

On Wednesday night I got a voicemail from Landon’s t-ball coach. He told us that Landon’s team had practice this Saturday @ 11am. It’s been raining for 3 days, and I’m pretty sure that practice is going to be canceled tomorrow (not to mention it’s freezing cold for May).  Shane and I went out the next day to buy him new cleats and baseball pants while he was at School.

I was doing dishes tonight and my mind got to thinking about last t-ball season. After one of the first practices last year is when I started my blog. I think about how fresh in my grief I was, and about the things that bothered me then. If I’m being honest, not much has changed. I know a lot of people think that by now, at 16 months and 6 days after our daughter was stillborn, we should be feeling better, but the sad truth is we’re just not. I don’t know that we will ever “feel better” as I’m pretty sure this isn’t something you learn to feel better about. I think about how I was so upset seeing the family who had 3 kids perfectly spaced out…and that stings even more this year in some odd way.

Three kids.

I have 2

but…I have 3.

And this year, we’re on a team where no one knows our family’s story…

I’m not looking forward to all the families- the normal families- at these events. There were more strollers at the games last year than I could ever count. Now this year, I have to witness the little girls running around that would be Kenley’s age. I just don’t know how your heart is supposed to handle these things…year after year…

I know it’s a lifetime thing, and someday I’m sure i’ll be less aware of the ages of these children, but for now it just fucking sucks. And it sucks a lot.

I’m very excited to have Alden here, safe, in my arms. I’m excited that she gets to come to Landon’s t-ball games and he gets to show her off to his friends. I’m thrilled that I feel stressed out about having two kids and often having to take them alone to Landon’s games as Shane will be working…but…

There will always be one missing. It feels weird to say that because who knows, maybe there wouldn’t always be one missing per se. If Kenley had lived, we wouldn’t have Alden- we were done. If Kenley had lived things would be different. If Kenley had lived, I would be chasing around a 16 month old and she would be eating popcorn and waving at her brother while he’s on third base putting dirt in his glove instead of paying attention to the ball.

So many If’s associated with loss, and it’s just so sad to think about. I don’t like to let my mind go there because it’s too sad and painful. I can’t even do the “May we all heal” prompts this year. I’m pretty sure my grief has just become a part of me now; it’s now deep in my bones where it will stay for the rest of my earthly life.

I think my grief is so intense that I cannot allow myself to think about it because it will straight up kill me.

Imagine having to live every day knowing that you cannot see one of your children. Ever again.

Imagine waking up to their photo- in which they are dead-  instead of their face.

Imagine thinking about the day they died every. second. of. your. life.

Imagine thinking if you had gone to the Hospital that morning instead of waiting that she could be here, she would be alive, they could have saved her because the doctor said she had only been gone for less than 3 hours.

Imagine having to choose one of your children to live without.

It’s enough to kill you, isn’t it?

 

the after.

There are a lot of emotions that one can feel after something powerful happens in their life. You can feel sadness that the event is over, joy that it happened, or even excitement for what is to come. I knew that getting pregnant 7 months after Kenley died would be a very profound time in my life. I don’t think that I was able to clearly see how the outcome (read: my life with Alden in my arms) would shake out. I’m not saying that I thought things would be fine once she was here, because quite honestly there was a large amount of time during her pregnancy where I wasn’t sure she would ever come home. I assumed the worst would happen; I panicked every appointment, and dreaded the NST’s or getting bad news.

When we found out that I had the rare blood clotting disorder called Protein S Deficiency and would need to be on injectable blood thinners, I just assumed that the worst would happen again. It didn’t matter to me that the “problem” was discovered and hopefully a blood thinner would keep clots from forming again which would lead to a positive outcome. In a loss Mother’s brain all you hear is that there is an additional problem with your pregnancy. High Risk. More monitoring.  I am forever thankful my Doctor chose to run this testing on me because had I lost another child, I’m not sure I would have survived that.

Here in the after that is Alden’s life earth side, I’m finding that I feel a lot of random emotions at random times. I feel happiness when I thought for sure I would be stricken with sadness. And on the other hand I feel sadness when for sure I should be feeling joy. I think throwing the element of losing a child into the mix is what makes things so backward. Losing Kenley means I miss out on a lifetime of love, joy, happiness, and milestones. A lifetime. I will never see her smile for the first time, or witness her chewing on her hands when she’s hungry. I will never get to see these things, these early little milestones that I’m witnessing with Alden. It’s hard to dress my living child in clothes that I bought and envisioned my dead child wearing. I thought I would try to dress her in something of Kenley’s yesterday, and I just couldn’t. So I didn’t put any pressure on myself; if I have to pack all of Kenley’s clothes in a tote when Alden is too big for them, then so be it. I don’t need to put added grief and pressure on myself over clothing.

I had Postpartum Depression after I had Landon, and I was very worried about having it with Alden (and it being coupled with grief from losing K). So, I googled the signs and symptoms just to keep myself honest about how I’m feeling. I can honestly say I check off almost every box.

(Keeping with the spirit of honesty through my loss, pregnancy after loss, and now life & parenting after a loss, I will mark the ones that I am currently feeling/have felt in green. Being transparent is important. PPD sucks and I know that I’m not alone in my feelings.)

Symptoms of PPD can occur any time in the first year postpartum. These symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Sleep and eating disturbances 
  • Inability to be comforted
  • Exhaustion
  • Emptiness
  • Inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable
  • Social withdrawal
  • Low or no energy
  • Becoming easily frustrated
  • Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby
  • Occasional or frequent anxiety

When I had it with Landon we had a lot going on; a newborn, Shane’s extremely stressful job, buying a house, moving across the state in one day and just adjusting to our new life so I wasn’t surprised when I started feeling sad when I should be happy and enjoying my exciting new life.

This time, after so much struggle and infertility, we ended up losing our beautiful girl. I knew that I would be sad after losing Kenley, and fully expected PPD to show it’s ugly face again, which it did. I’m pretty sure that it never actually left in some senses; this could also just be regular ol’ run of the mill depression now. I’ve been on medication since February 2016 and I’m pretty sure that I will always want to be on it as I feel like it really does help to take the edge off of my anxiety.

When Alden was born screaming, I knew my struggle wasn’t over. I knew that now, probably more than ever, I would be feeling a wide range of emotions and I was absolutely correct. Life has been filled with happiness, sadness, joy, grief, guilt, and in some ways even more secondary losses that I’m finally able to physically experience. Things as simple as getting Alden dressed, while she stares at me, I feel both joy and sadness while doing. I think that this feeling of both joy and sadness while doing the most mundane of things with your living child is one that only a loss mother can truly understand. A feeling that a women who was so close to having her child in her arms, then that child was stolen away taking all of her dreams and part of her soul with her, would understand to the fullest.

Alden has brought so much love and light to my life, and for that I am so happy. I know that she will be loved more than she can ever imagine, and that I will give her everything she could ever want and need as a human to thrive in this awful world. I know that someday I might be able to look at her and feel complete joy, but that day is very far off. The grief I feel for my daughter that didn’t get a chance at life is a grief that no one should ever have to feel. It’s the grief that you can feel in your bones, the one you can taste, the one that makes every part of you hurt. It’s the grief that makes every part of you wish that you had died right along side your child because that is the only way it would feel right.

I knew that bringing Alden home, safe and sound, wouldn’t be a fix for losing Kenley. Nothing will ever take away the pain of losing Kenley, and nothing will ever completely fill the hole I have in my heart where she should be. Losing a full term child is the worst thing that can happen to a person. I am 100% certain of that.

Navigating this life with one beautiful daughter in my arms, and one in my heart is turning out to be a lot harder than I expected.

baby book. 

When we were 13 weeks pregnant with Kenley, my neighbor asked if she could bring over some gifts she bought us. I was so excited- Kenley’s first gifts! I couldn’t wait. One of the gifts was a baby book; the kind that I would have chosen myself which made it that much better. I remember flipping through and thinking about all the entries I couldn’t wait to make. First teeth to come in, first steps, favorite cartoons, or books. Except, I only filled in the first two or three pages; I was denied the opportunity to complete the other entries. 

Secondary Losses. 

When we got pregnant with Alden, things were extremely different- how could they not be? I didn’t want gifts for her; I didn’t want to make plans for her future because I was all too sure she would be ripped away from me too. A week or so before she came, I received a surprise gift in the mail from a dear friend. 

A baby book. 

I had put off buying one intentionally because I just couldn’t even think about filling in the beginning again. 

 “Mommy and Daddy were _________ when they found out you were coming!” 

Scared. Guilty. Mad. Excited. Happy. Sad. Anxious. Depressed. 

How do you fill in that answer? 

I took her book to the hospital to make sure her foot prints found the proper home inside, but I haven’t opened it yet to look at them. I know she deserves me to fill out her book just like I started to fill out Kenley’s, or how I’ve filled out Landon’s. I know that. I’m sure that some day I will fill it out because I want her to be able to look back at it after she’s had a child of her own to see when she started walking, or when she got her first tooth and to see which one it was. 

She deserves that.

 I owe it to her. 

I want to make her life as “shadowless” as possible and I know that having a baby book for her will be a step in that direction. I don’t want to ever imagine how she would feel if she asked me to see her book, and I told her I couldn’t make her one because after her sister died I would rather have sawed off my arm than write in another baby book. 

I’m finding out each day that there are new mountains to climb in my new life with Alden. 

One foot in front of the other, right? One step at a time. 

looking inside.

Sometimes when it’s dark out, and were driving down the road I will look inside peoples houses if their curtains aren’t pulled shut. I know that I’m not the only person who does this, and so I know that there are people who have driven by my house and looked into the Nursery when it’s evening and the curtains have been open.

Those people are not aware of the pain and suffering that has been the last year of my life. They drive by, peer in and see a little girls nursery. They could have even driven by multiple times and seen a guest room, Kenley’s nursery, and then now Aldens’s. Maybe they didn’t notice, or maybe they did. It’s such a harmless thing, just looking out the window of a moving car. It’s just amazing what you will never know from just looking inside someone’s window while driving by.  It’s such a weird thing to think about, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I fully expect many people to discuss my pregnancies when we’re in the hospital, or maybe it’s because losing a child makes you wonder who else has gone through it?

Maybe it’s because I feel like everyone should just know about Kenley. I wrote about this in the very first blog post I ever wrote. I feel like once you’re a loss parent, you are marked and everyone should just see your pain, no matter how long it’s been, and no matter how your child died.

Shane and I were talking at breakfast the other morning and we were discussing how naive we were when we had Landon. Shane said he remembers how proud he was to take Landon out to meals and have people tell us how adorable he was. We talked about how we never in a million years would have ever thought that we were hurting anyone buy taking our child to breakfast with us in public; now however I’m constantly wondering who is suffering.  I know that there will always be someone in pain, and that we will never be able to know for sure who it is, but I will always be more aware now.

Today is March 1st.

I can’t even with all the weird feelings I’m having, but let me try…

I feel excited because yeah, theoretically, I should be having a baby soon (I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch though…).

I feel sad because I should have Kenley in my arms, as a beautiful funny 14 month old baby- instead, I’m super pregnant, again.

I feel nervous because I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten everything I know about taking care of a baby. I had postpartum depression with Landon pretty badly, and I’m scared that it will be that again on top of grieving for Kenley.

I feel extreme love when I think about watching Landon hold Alden. I cannot wait for that moment; I have been waiting for far too long to witness it.

And, on top of all of that, I feel guilt. Guilt that I’m being monitored so well by my doctor and that Kenley didn’t even get a chance to be monitored like this. Guilt for being so excited for Alden to come. So much guilt over pretty much everything. It’s just so difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t lost a child what the guilt is like and how I feel it vs pure excitement.

Tomorrow we have a NST, and my doctor is going to check the blood flow in her cord for us.  At Monday’s appointment I think that I scared my doctor. I have been cool and calm so far but not on Monday. I think she finally really understood how intense this has been for me. I let my guard down and cried and cried and cried. I begged her to take Alden at 36 weeks, or that day. Just take her while I know that she is alive and well. Kenley died 6 days before her scheduled c-section date, and I cannot go through losing a child this close to the end again.

She offered me daily NST’s, and to see me personally at everyone. I don’t think that I can bring myself to go up there every single day and not feel absolutely insane. The NST’s themselves give me super PTSD. They are how we found out that Kenley had died, so they just don’t do much to calm me down. I emailed my doctor last night, and she wrote back within 4 minutes- I appreciate that more than she will ever know.

I’m trying. 14 days left. 2 weeks. I can do this.