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

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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.