September 7, 2014

Awhile back I purchased a book called "Bringing in Finn."  Many of you have probably heard of the story-long story short a woman went through years of trying and finally did IVF.  She got pregnant with twins and due to unexpected preterm labor she lost them/delivered them right around the same time I delivered mine 21 weeks.  Anyway, the memoir is about how she came to have her son, Finn.  Her 60+ year old mother offered to surrogate (gestational carry) for them after the loss and they took her up on it.  In all honestly, I slammed the book shut in the middle, right after she delivered her twins.  Too many emotions and memories of my own horrific loss filled my memory as my tears filled for this woman because I actually COULD imagine that situation.

Recently I picked back up and came to a part I wanted to share.

While her mother was pregnant with her grandchild, (Sara, the author's son), she approached her daughter and said "You are not broken, you are chosen." 

The mom was putting some crazy spin on Sara's body not being broken, but her being chosen all along to go down this route.  Again tears came.  Although I don't deal with guilt at all (I KNOW I couldn't have done anything different with J and B), I deal with a large amount of sorrow that my body killed innocent, perfect, and healthy lives.  I. Am. Broken.  But chosen?  I wasn't so sure how I felt about this but felt my heart feel happier about that thought than broken.  The mom goes on to tell a story about maggots...

This story is taken right from the book.  It's about a Native American man captured during World War II and held in a POW camp. 

"He was tortured and starved for month, and then, on the brink of his death, he was fed maggots from a dirt floor by one of the guards just before the camp was liberated.  When he returns home to his tribe, he wallowed in grief and self-pity and likely a fair amount of PTSD.  The tribe left him be for awhile and then took him to the edge of large lake with a stone tied around his neck.

'You can either choose to forgive and live,' they said, 'or die.  There are only 2 choices.'

The man walked into the lake, intending to choose death.  He started to sink, when his life force seized him and he began to forgive.  As he struggled to the surface, he face the final situation he'd endured: the guard who had shoved the maggots into his face, moving his jaw so he was forced to swallow, encouraging the other guards to laugh at and humiliate him.  It was too much, he felt, to forgive this man.  He let go of the rock so he could drown. 

At the last second, before all his oxygen had gone, a watery light entered his mind and he saw that same man reading a book while the other guards slept, reading about a way to keep someone alive using protein from the bugs of the earth.  The soldier had not been tormenting him, it turned out, but saving his life."

Sara, goes on to say that her psychologist had said before we label a situation, we must consider the possibility that we many not have all the information.  Before you name something as broken/bad to consider that there may be something "profound and important, not just for you but for the greater good-that could not come any other way.

I don't have all the information.  I accept I may never know why I had to "swallow the maggots" aka lose my babies.  Pain is a part of life.  But because of Jude and Brinly, I have the deepest empathy for people that fight so hard and then lose. Although I would take Jude and Brinly 1 million times before this route, before losing them I would just feel sorry for people that had miscarriages.  I felt scared for people that had stillborns/late losses-and I felt scared of them-what on earth do you say?  You hear these random horror stories and assume it would never happen to you.  How do you approach them?  Like most people you want to avoid eye-contact and are freaked out to bring it up.  But now?  I have a passion to raise my own tattered arms and wrap them around new mommy's that wake up in this nightmare. 


Goodbye My Loves

August 26, 2014

After the marathon of weddings (I was in two weddings in 6 days), I woke up early for Jude's memorial this last Sunday.

It was a perfect day.  The weather was sunny, and our family's followed our request to be there at 9:00am sharp.  Jude's life was short so it was fitting to have his memorial be short.  My mother is law read a beautiful letter she wrote to him-one thing that stood out to it was she pointed out to Jude that if it was for Darren and I and our love, he would never have existed and would have never had this beautiful life he has in heaven.  We gave him that because of our love-I liked it.  Then my mom shared and talked about hope. 

Then I pulled the blanket that I first held Jude in out of my purse and put his box of ashes on it-I held him for the first time and the last time in that blanket.  I thanked Jude for teaching me about empathy.  Before losing him and his sister I felt "bad" for people when they had tough news or a loss, but because of actually getting the pain of death and loss I know FEEL pain for people when they lose someone or get a bad diagnosis.  I cry for them.  He has made me more emphatic.

I thanked Jude for teaching me that stupid cliché phrases like "It will all work out" "It wasn't meant to be" "God has a plan" "Keep trying it will happen" "Relax" "why don't you adopt?" etc DO NOT HELP PEOPLE suffering.  They just don't.  I now know to look someone in the eyes-to really see them- and to be silent or to acknowledge-this is really really crappy and I'm so sorry-and mean it.

Lastly, Jude taught me about my faith.  I've always been a Christian, but it's easy to be a Christian when your life is good.  When sorrow pours down on you and you hit the cement at 10593284032 miles per hour and your prayers go unanswered and you deliver a stillborn and then another stillborn within 20 days??  That makes you question if your faith is real.  Do I still believe in His goodness?  Do I still believe in a loving God?  After ALL the loss and pain and anger and horrific sorrow of losing Jude and Brinly, I still answer yes.

Darren then thanked our family for the support they gave us in the hospital and then my Dad prayed for us.  I don't think there was a dry eye. My family then walked to the base of Multnomah Falls for a family picture and a surprise I will blog about later.

In the meantime, Darren and I walked down to a beautiful stream.  "Bye baby boy," I whispered.  I pulled him out, that small bag of ashes and released him into the stream.  I thought I would be afraid.  I was not.  I saved a tiny pinch of the ashes for a special tree that was given to me in their honor.  I love him, but I truly let him go.

The memorial of course brought up all kinds of sad emotions that had been buried for so long.  My love, my son.  I had so much hope you would make it.  But it was also healing.  And now we press on and hope for our rainbow.

Letting Go Kind Of

July 30, 2014

School starts early September and in my heart I know it's time to let Jude go by spreading his ashes.

It still feels surreal that I type that.  My daughter and son, died, and I have to plan a service for them.  Is this my life?

Brinly is buried in a mass grave the hospital does for free for babies lost before 20 weeks.  I quickly agreed to that because at the time my whole focus was on the live baby, Jude.  When he died, they asked if I wanted them cremated together.  I said no.  For some reason, they left this world at different times, it didn't bother me they wouldn't be buried together.  I'm still ok with that.

At first I wanted nothing to do with the ashes.  The whole thing scared me and made me feel creepy and weird.  My mother in law took care of the whole ordeal and found a cemetery where you could sprinkle them in a garden.  However, I panicked at that idea to and asked her to hold on while I sorted through the insane sadness and blurry grief storm I was in.

I thought of Multnomah Falls.  It's a beautiful falls here in the Northwest in the gorge.  We hike there every now and then.  It's special.  The idea came to me to spread his ashes there, in the water.  That way, I could "visit" him when I go there.  I figured that someday I could take our PLEASE GOD future kid/s there to tell them the story of Jude and Brinly, their older brother and sister. 

There is a part of me that doesn't want to spread them.  It's weird, I don't even have/want them in my house.  Pouring out the box is kind of over, the last time in this lifetime that I hold my son, even though we all know he has been in heaven for almost a year.  Someone suggested pouring out half, but we don't do that with bodies?  I just feel sad about it all.  But then I think that this might be a big step in the healing process.  Letting go.  Saying goodbye with my family with me.  Allowing myself to go there-the deepest darkest saddest places that linger in my soul that I try to forget about.  To weep yet again for the devastating loss.  The unfairness.  The pain that I felt.  That Jude and Brinly felt.

My mom asked "how do you want the day to go?"  I'm not sure.  I guess I say goodbye and my family can say anything they want.  Then, I asked my mom that maybe our family could say a prayer for us, right there, for healing and peace.  For bravery.  For courage.  For hope again.  For redemption.

I've always tried to live my life in a way honoring to God that models His values.  But I told my mom-how on earth would anyone want to choose to follow Christ when they witness something like this?  I'm a Christian, I asked for a child, I got pregnant with triplets, they all died.  From the outside, who would want anything to do with Jesus??  I know I wouldn't.  BUT Christ loves redemption.  It's not always how we plan it, see it, but over and over and over again He does make things right.  I myself have begun to lose hope in that; but of course, I want my story to end with redemption.  I still get goose bumps (in a sad way) that days before my water broke I even wrote those lyrics on a decorative board in my house I write quotes on-"let me see redemption win, let me know the struggle ends."  It was almost like my heart knew something was up.

All this to say, hopefully end of summer Darren and I will have the courage/strength to do a memorial service for him, for them, for us.  And then, take another step towards opening up to building the family. 

Lastly, as we work to slowly rebuild our faith, our hope in His goodness, our trust despite things we cannot fathom to understand, Hillsong's Ocean (acoustic version) is my current favorite worship song.  I cry every time I hear it.  Even though I still struggle to find words to say when I pray, this song helps fill in the blanks. <3

When Your Only Child Dies

July 13, 2014

The waves of grief come and go.  Today I finally had the discipline to drag myself to church.  I went alone, to the one I grew up in (not our regular).  This is probably only the 5th time I've been since the loss.

During the worship service, I can feel the tears starting to come.  I love Him.  I do.  My roots are deep in my faith but there is still a lot of healing to go.  The words in the song "Have your way, rule and reign in me" I battle with.  The tears come because I'm tired of the "surrender" to His will yet they are also there because I know none of us have a choice/control in any outcome.  I cry too because He is good and after everything I can still bring my lips to whisper that and mean it, despites the pain.

The topic was on "Why does a good God allow evil/suffering?"  It started off with a video of footage from the Clackamas Town Center shooting, the Troutdale shooting, the Boston Marathon.  Tears again.  Why don't you stop this??? I find myself angrily asking.  Death and evilness around every corner, striking randomly. 

There obviously is no easy answer and the pastor didn't say anything I haven't heard before.  He reminded us that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  On the first few days of creation (plants, animals, etc) he was happy but He wanted to be loved.  His heart was missing that.  The plants couldn't love Him back.  Animals react on instinct.  He had to give us choice-He knew it would be selfish to pre-program us to love Him to seek Him, to choose Him.  He knew that by giving humans a choice-evil could happen if they chose that route.  He did not want to force us to be robots that love Him because we know nothing else. 

And throughout time, several people have made the choice to not choose Him and goodness but to chose selfishness and darkness.  He allows their choices to play out and only promises to make things right, someday. 

This is hard to swallow.  I didn't do anything "wrong" to deserve to lose my children.  No one else did anything "evil" to me to make me lose them.  It felt like a personal attack or personal "denial" from the Creator Himself.  We cry out to heaven and all we hear is a door slam, several bolts lock, and silence (as described by C.S. Lewis).  The pastor reminded us that we don't see tomorrow and He does.  That He is good and all His actions are love.  That even evil things can be redeemed, made right, restored because of His love for us. 

Pretty heavy stuff to process on one of my first times back at church.  One of my mom's friends who I grew up with stopped me on the way out to say hi.  She brought up the loss and I couldn't have felt more loved.  She acknowledged the sorrow and hugged me (so much better than acting like it didn't happen).  I talked a bit about it, through tears.  I ended the conversation with telling her that despite the horror, Darren and I do not accept this fight is over.  Holding Jude only fueled the flames to keep moving forward and I told her that I hope that the peace and that the hope and that the fight to move forward is from Him.

2 popular songs on the radio really get me.  It's crazy how love songs can relate so much to babies.  The song "All of Me" instantly reminds me of Jude "All of me, loves all of you, all your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections",  I picture my favorite black and white picture of his gorgeous face with little bruises.  On the way home from church the song "Stay with Me" came on the radio on the way home and I lost it.  I really really hope that the next baby stays with me.  I cried in a good way.  The cry that helps release the sadness that slowly builds up over time. 

We later went to a family reunion at my parents to hold a casual memorial service for my grandma that died 10 days after Jude.  All my married cousins have kids.  I couldn't help but ache for Jude and Brinly when I saw the family pictures with all their children together.  I can't help but think all of my sister and cousin's kids met my grandma.

Today was a sad day for me and I actually feel ok about it.  I need these days, to process, to remember, to acknowledge and to work through the bruises in my faith.

I came across this article on Still Standing about the pain that comes with losing your only living child.  She says that some moms lose a baby/child but they still have 1 or more living-she explains how our pain is different/empty-but goes on to say she doesn't want to get into who has it worst, it's all worst-our child died.  Anyways, read it if you get a chance, it explains a lot of how I felt those dark months following the delivery.  I still can relate to several of her feelings.
(I took the bottom image from her article)
When your only child dies :

A Baby Monkey Nipped Darren

July 8, 2014

Darren and I got back from our 10 day trip to Puerto Rico and then Carribean Cruise to: St. Lucia, St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Kitts, and St. Marteen last week and things have been insane!  Everyone assumes that since I'm a teacher I "relax" in the summer, but I haven't even had time to catch up on the THREE episodes of the Bachelorette.

This summer I'm doing 3 jobs.  I'm teaching a education class Monday and Wednesday nights at Concordia University. The majority of my days involve hours of prep and planning to make sure my 3 teaching hours are as awesome as possible.  Starting today I will be scoring teacher portfolios from home from 8am to noon everyday until the end of the month.  I'm still teaching Spanish online too!  I'm actually more busy than I am during the school year.  The day we got back from vacation, I had 24 hours to get ready for my first class!  I'm actually looking forward to August (my last university day is August 6) and I'm in two of my best friend's weddings so it should be more fun.

Back to the monkey that bit Darren.  This was by far my FAVORITE part of vacation.  The whole trip was perfect.  Sunny days, balcony room, unlimited food and dessert, gorgeous beaches, getting to spend 24/7 with Darren, etc.  But one day at breakfast I overhead that in St. Kitts you can get your picture with a monkey when you get off the boat.  I looked at Darren with a stern look and said "I'm doing this."  (He usually is opposed to anything that has to do with wildlife and actually dropped my new S5 when I was trying to get him to take a selfie of us both holding pigeons).

When we got off the boat at St. Kitts, there they were.  Tiny little monkeys (in diapers) and some even in dresses!  They are the pets of somewhat "shady" locals who origiannly wanted me to give him $10 to take 3 pictures with my cell phone!  As you are negotiating the price, they literally start putting the monkeys on you...I guess get you more excited?  We agreed on $5 for 2 pictures (eye roll).  Darren followed the rules and only took 1 picture of me and the monkey isn't even looking.  But the real treasure is the pictures (notice plural) I snapped of him.  The locals constantly feed the monkeys (I'm assuming to keep them from biting) but the little monkey was starting to slip on Darren's arm so he boosted it back up...which in turn, made the monkey think he was trying to touch his food, so he nipped him.  For some reason, every time I rethink the scenario of Darren getting bit by the monkey I feel really happy, amused, and to be honest, a bit jealous.  What a great story for those ice breakers where you tell two truths and a lie??

Last summer at this exact time I was gearing up for transfer #3.  Today is a weird day in regards to Jude and Brinly and their frozen siblings at OHSU.   July 8th, 2013 exactly one year ago was when my triplets made it to 5 day blasts and were transferred into me.  This being our 2nd full blow egg retrieval, we had 9 make it to 5 or 6 day blasts-the best two and the lowest score were the 3 we chose to transfer.  So from that cycle we froze 2 single embryos 4AB/4AB, a set of 4ABs and then a set of 6 days blasts-they joined 1 set of 4ABs from our first IVF cycle.  So crazy the start of J and B and all the other frosties was a year ago.  I'm grateful for the "hope on ice" that are waiting for me when I'm ready.  Next step is to plan Jude and Brinly's memorial for the end of the summer/early fall.  I think although sad, it will be another step towards healing and another step in this messy thing called grief.  They are in our hearts every second.  I wrote their name in the sand in the Carribean.

I read a long time ago at the beginning of my blogging that wearing red underwear on New Year's Eve helps increase fertility.  Any one know if monkey bites help?

Formal Night on the ship!

My handsome husband enjoying the balcony

View from our room!

Orient Beach

I was way happy about feeding pigeons in Puerto Rico.

 Best for last, this is the 2nd picture I took, right before he bit.  You can see the look in his eye.

Rainbow Baby Killed in Bike Crash

July 3, 2014

When I lost Jude and Brinly I was quickly welcomed with sad, warm, open arms in a very private and small groups called LAMBS.  Loss of all multiples.  This group has been my saving grace because it's a small collection of women who truly understand the horror and depth of loss and loss and loss instead of just trying to imagine it.  I can go here when I have a dark thought or have been hurt/offended by someone who I KNOW meant well but stung me.  Here the women validate my feelings while gently reminding me people mean well.

Cynthia Jenks is the name of group administrator.  She lost quadruplets in 1998 (identical boys/fraternal girls).  She has been kind and caring to all of us moms (and sadly the new moms each month that join due to losing ALL).  Today she posted in the group and said that she has never mentioned it in the group but that she actually had her rainbow twins (boy/girl) in 2000 (many of us women in the group really really are sensitive to twins/triples and hearing about other people's can trigger lots of emotions, that is why I'm assuming she never told us she has twins).  Anyway, last week, her 13 year old son and daughter where on a bike ride (with a group that trains teens to bike competitively) and he was killed, 3 inches in front of his teen sister, in a bike wreck.

I felt really numb reading her post.  Then I read it to Darren and the reality of the cruelty of life set in.  I'm not in charge but if things were fair (which we all know they are NOT), the pain, loss, nastiness would at least be spread out.  A mommy that had to bury 4 babies that she labored and delivered has put in her time in the suffering department.  To experience the rainbow boy/girl twins and then a sudden loss?  The article took me to her facebook page and just days before she was posting family pictures.

I think about the idea of "rainbow" baby all the time-They are the beauty after the storm.  Things being made right.  With my first miscarriage in 2012, I thought J and B were my rainbows.  If I ever am lucky enough to get my rainbow baby, the pain of losing him/her as young teen is beyond horrific.  I know it's beyond horrific for any family, any loss of a child.

I by no means want to be doom and gloom.  We all know we will die at some point.  I guess I write about her because it reminds me to hold those that I love even closer.  Just like the poem Amy wrote me when Jude and Brinly died Loss and Gratitude , remember to enjoy each and every second you have with the children you have or the husband and wife or friend or sibling.  My heart breaks for her today because I have an idea of the grief that lies ahead...
Olivia and Timothy at Open Water Zones 2013 Wisconsin

Father's Day ♥♥

June 15, 2014

To all bereaved fathers missing their children today and every day-- we honor and celebrate you.  <3Unlike myself, Darren expressed no issues/problems with attending Father's Day events with our families (I locked myself in tight on Mother's Day). 

Darren is the father of Jude and Brinly, although not here, nonetheless, he is their dad.  He is a superhero dad.

I am on a few facebook support groups for "loss of all multiples" and "life after pProm loss."  There I connect with a very small population of women who 100% understand the pain because they do have experienced it first hand.  I found a few "thoughts" on Father's Day there:

Taken from "Physcology Today," it discuses the impact of stillbirth on the father (while pointing out it's usually the mom's that get all the support). "Writes Return To Zero writer/director Sean Hanish, whose son was stillborn in 2005,  “As a husband, a partner, a man you are a passenger on the pregnancy express. You can look out the window and watch the scenery go by, her belly grow, her skin glow, and if you’re lucky, catch your baby’s elbow as it presses against her belly like the dorsal fin of some alien sea creature making it more real for you. But you’re not the engineer. When the crash comes you are struggling with your own emotions, grief and loss, desolation and depression, and watching as your wife, your partner, your life jumps the tracks. Twisting metal tumbling out of control in slow motion. Prepare for impact.”

Darren, although strong and rarely discusses it, has gone through some serious impact on the said "Pregnancy Express." 

Once a father, always a father.  <3

We are healing slowly.  Some days better than others.  Today I gave Darren his first Father's Day Card.  I acknowledge him as a dad and love him deeper for it.  And I also want to acknowledge all the other dad's out there who have lost.  We stand with you.  We see you.  We understand.  And I want to acknowledge all the men who are fighting daily to be fathers, who are longing to be fathers, who are deep in the trenches of building a family and truly have a father's heart.  Happy Father's Day ♥♥

This picture was taken a few days after my 3rd IVF transfer of 3 embryos.  We didn't know it at the time but I was pregnant with triplets.  Issac, Jude, and Brinly.  Here is one of Darren's first pictures as their dad. Although none of them are here with us, we love them every single day of our lives and hold on to the promise of seeing them again someday when the world is made right.

Cupcakes With Pink Filling (Survival of Gender Reveal Take 3)

May 30, 2014

Wow!  It's been almost 3 weeks since my last post.  Here are my top excuses: 

1. I'm a teacher and the end of the school year gets muy loco, I also am teaching a graduate class and an online Spanish course.  Oh ya, I run prom too (here's my BIL, sista, me, and Darren chaperoning our hearts out)

2.  As mentioned, we are on an official break which means there is very little to update.  Although I've been enjoying my runs/gym time, my guilt-free Starbucks, and more spontaneous sex, I've been baby-making obsessed for over 3 years-that doesn't just shut off.  I still feel that first sting when I see a pregnant person, I still cringe at new announcements, I still roll my eyes during diaper commercials, and I still think about Jude and Brinly every breath; and the desire to someday hold their siblings is with me every single second of the day. First official month of "not trying to try" but I still question if I'm ovulating in my brain- although I didn't do any ovulation predicting kits, I'm 99% sure I ovulated on cycle day 18 (I've read this is common to ovulate on your own the month or two after stopping femara).  With that said, I'm 100% sure I'm not pregnant because of A. negative test 12 dpo and B. insane cramps. No surprise here.  I've accepted that unless some miracle randomly occurs, me becoming pregnant lies in our frozen embies on ice.

Holly, when do you plan to go after the embryos you may be asking?  The answer?  It's a little complicado.  I am full of anxiety even thinking about how many to transfer and needles and hospital.  The specialist recommends 1, the RE 2.  My track record (with all great 5 day blasts) is as follows.  First IVF transferred 2-1 implanted but early miscarriage; 2nd FET 2 transferred, nothing stuck.  3rd IVF transferred 3, all 3 implanted and had heartbeats, middle baby B miscarried at 9 weeks and J and B lived healthy little fetus lives till @$@#%@%@ (notice my extra long bad word) hit the fan and I lost them both.  So that is 2 for 7.  5 were probably abnormal to miscarry/arrest.  So do I really want to go through 1 at a time with each transfer about $3,000 a pop and tons of injections?  BUT, I was told that I should NEVER carry twins.  If both implanted, I would be 100% horrified that I would pProm again and kill my children.  Whenever we drive by OHSU I do still manage to shout out really really loud (partly to annoy Darren) "Hi little frozen babies!! I love you!  I miss you!"  I've said this before but the day I said "I do" to Darren I never IMAGINED I would be yelling hello to our frozen children every time we were in Portland. 

All this to say, Darren and I booked a cruise that leaves from Puerto Rico at the end of the month to get out.  I'm assuming I'll make some decision by end of the summer and remain fairly private about it because I don't know if I can handle accepting the reality and horror that may come if it works (scared to lose baby again) and the pain (if it fails).  However, by early fall it's been almost a year.  I want to have a memorial for Jude, let go, and move forward despite the fear.  My desire to have living children is still stronger than my fear, even after this nightmare experience of delivering/laboring 2 babies weeks apart.

On a second note, my younger sister Heidi is 19 weeks pregnant with her 2nd child.  She got pregnant the first month she tried. Again.  I would be lying if that initial announcement didn't kick me in the gut, make me sob,  and force me question my faith once again. Why would God allow something so horrible to happen to me, while making the same thing so easy for her?  I avoid pregnant women like the plague to protect myself but no way on earth would I avoid Heidi.  I would NEVER wish infertility on her, my best friend, my own flesh and blood, BUT, I wouldn't have minded if it took them the normal 3-6 months (and for the record I think even she was surprised they were lucky enough for another 1st month).  It blows my mind that 2 sisters can have such extremely different reproductive systems.  It's not her fault her uterus is amazing and it's not my fault mine sucks.

Before my loss of J and B, I had mastered the "happy for them, sad for me" concept.  But since their loss, I've changed a bit.    In this dark season of my life, I'm mainly just sad for me in all things pregnancy related.  For us.  The voice of the women that have fought so hard and still have empty arms.  It's selfish but it's truthful. 

Heidi just had her gender reveal party.  I knew from day 1 my gut told me it was a girl so I wasn't surprised when I bit into the cupcake and saw pink.  Ahhh Brinly, your sweet little cousin would have adored you like the "cool" older sister.  When I was in 1st grade I always thought 2nd graders were SO cool.  You would have been that to Heidi's little girl.  She would have admired you, looked up to you.  You would be the older sister she never will have-you two would have had slumber parties at each of our houses and been best friends just like me and your Aunt Heidi.  I would have French braided your hair with her and painted your toes with her. 

I had to let go of being the oldest daughter and not giving my parent's their first grandchild.  When I was in the mist of our first IVF Heidi gave birth to Ryker.   With the bite of the pink cupcake I also swallowed the fact that I will not be the first child to give my parents a living granddaughter.  Minor, small, I know, in the big scheme of things, but still, until that bite it was something I could think "well maybe I'll at least have the first girl."  It's nothing new to me that life isn't always fair, that things don't always go as planned.  I accept it.  I accept, even in my pain and bitterness and sorrow, that He knows better.  That the heart of God is kind and gentle and purposeful although in the valley I mainly just see dark.  I asked Heidi if I could throw her shower-the first shower I attend after the loss might as well be their sweet little cousin's. I will love that little girl the way I love her son.  But, good Lord, I so wish my kids were here to play with hers.  And she wishes that too.  And so does her husband and my husband. And so does my mom.  And my dad.  And my brother.  And all those that love us and care for us and are rooting for us.  I love all my nieces and nephews, but they are not mine.  They cry for their own mommy when they need something. 

On the way home from the "reveal" party we were pretty quiet. This sadness doesn't come from Heidi's pregnancy, it comes from the remembering of our own gender reveal celebration and loss.  I didn't cry. Then Darren randomly asks me "Do you think losing Brinly and Jude has changed your personality?"  This threw me off a bit ("has my personality changed?" I quickly ask myself).  I paused for a long time.  Then said, "No, I still feel like I'm me, but I'm a lot more cynical....Do you feel like it's changed yours?"  He replies, "I don't feel like have as much joy about things any more."  Darren is the stronger/stable one in our relationship.  He rarely discuses the loss and to hear him say this, made my heart feel extra sad.  Jude and Brinly's dad has loss so much too. 

Through all our pain, I at least have had my eyes open to the other pain and suffering around me.  When bad things happen to people I know, I feel it a little deeper.  Empathy.  Sorrow.  Compassion.  Although the pain/scar of J and B will always be there, the fix will be someday, somehow, somewhere be when I meet their siblings.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, I bought J and B and book called My Love Will Find You around the 9 week mark.  That love is stronger than ever because I looked in my child's face and knew we couldn't quit.   And I pray that God makes things right. In my scattered prayers I ask, just like He says, that He will make beauty from ashes.  My. Love. Will. Find. Them.

My First "Mother's" Day

May 11, 2014

Like many things (my first biggest fear was J and B's true due date), going to the first baby shower after loss (still avoiding that one), and now Mother's Day, when the days comes and goes and I realize I am still alive, still breathing, I realize it wasn't quite as bad as I had imagined.  As I stayed pretty much cocooned up in the house, I was surrounded by love and kindness.  Here's a little recap.

Yesterday on the way home from the beach with my in-laws, we saw this:
If you look closely, it's a double rainbow.  Sure it's Washington here and sure it's grey and stormy, but in my heart I like to think it was from J and B and God.  Or at least beautiful timing.
The second sweet surprise was I got TWO actual "Happy Mother's Day" cards in the mail acknowledging me as a mom.  I presented them to Darren when he got home and he looked at me hesitantly-"does that make you happy or sad?"  "So, so happy I replied."
Third, my mom put this as her instagram:

There was my name, with my grandma's and great grandma's and mom's and sister's.  Holly Benson listed with the other moms, no long explanation, just my name.  Although I skipped the celebration my mom assured me that the day wouldn't pass with her talking about J and B and that they are always a part of our family.  I cried with love.

I managed to stop by Starbucks to get a drink with my mom after they went to church and my grandma stopped by with a book as a gift and this is what was written inside:
Darren and I did some errands and a few hours later this was on my porch:

On Saturday I also got this in the mail (it says: Brinly and Jude Held Your Whole Life):

And 7 different people texted me this (or something sweet):

In the meantime, I was considering looking at the pictures of Brinly.  They are on a cd and for some reason I thought today would be fitting and I was feeling brave.  I climbed into the attic and opened the bins full of their things.  The precious clothes I had bought them once I hit the "safe zone."  Ultrasound pictures.  Their official gender reports.  His death certificate.  I couldn't find Brinly's CD-must have gotten misplaced during those insane weeks.  Darren swears it will show up and I'm ok with that too.  I peeked into the memory boxes I visit so often and looked at their footprints, I stared at Jude's face and held his blanket.  I allowed the silent tears of love and sorrow to fall down my face and before I could stop it allowed the prayer to leave my lips again, "Please, make it right, let us see redemption win."  And shockingly, this prayer wasn't the angry bitter deeply hurt prayer that I've spit out a few times since the loss.  It was a gentler, broken, humble exchange. 

Grief has waves and they come un-expectantly, the anger isn't gone.  The massive wounds are no where near scarred over, and my obsession to meet their siblings someday grows every second, but today I felt mainly just love for my children and proud to be their mom. 

Last Sunday was "Bereaved" Mother's Day, Next Sunday is Mother's Day

May 7, 2014

I'm lost in between the days.  Yes, I am a bereaved mother, and yes, I am a mother.

I have had four losses, an empty sack and 3 additional heartbeats inside my body grow to 9 weeks, 18 weeks, and 21 weeks that are no longer here with me. I have seen the evidence myself.  10 toes, 10 fingers. Perfect and gorgeous beauty-the products of a loving mommy and daddy, eager parents who cannot wait to bring the world to their children.  I have felt my daughter kick. I have held my son.  He laid on my chest, forever asleep, moments after his own heartbeat stopped due to my body failing him and going into labor too soon for him to survive outside the womb.  I am the mom of Brinly and Jude, they are real. 

I refuse to remove my necklace with the initial of each 4 lost loves.  I refuse to stop looking at my pictures of Jude after he was born.  When people ask if I have children I often say "no" to avoid the awkward silence that follows-but it's not worth the guilt I instantly feel for betraying the truth and betraying their existence.  "Yes, but they died at birth.  Twins."

I will not attend church this Sunday. Church is for the mothers.  They honor them and have them stand and give them flowers.  They ask all moms to stand.  I will feel like an imposter if I stand (she doesn't have kids?) but a traitor if I don't (Jude and Brinly's name woven on my finger on my ring).  It's easiest to stay at home, to think about them and what they would have been.  I'm convinced Jude would have been like me-more serious, responsible, hardworking and driven, bound by rules and goals while Brinly would have been like her dad-free-spirited, a dreamer, adventurous, friendly and wise. 

I was filled with the worst dread and horror when I knew they wouldn't make it-yet were still alive.  The agony of those days begging God to help us while each day brought on more intensity and sadness than before.  The pain I felt when I saw Brinly curled up like a potato bug on the ultrasound when her water broke-it was my first real mother instinct-"I'm here with you, I'm right here Brin, mommy's with you" I would say, knowing in my heart that she was going to die unless there was a divine intervention.  And the crazy love I had for Jude the second I saw his face, the second I knew that we had to keep fighting.  I hugged him, I kissed him, I cuddled him.  He was mine and losing him nearly broke my own heart into a million pieces...

Although I choose to spend Mother's Day quietly, alone with Darren, I think of my own strong mom.  All the while my own mom had to stand right next to her own baby and watch me drown.  She had no rope.  She had no lifeboat.  All she could do was helplessly watch her own daughter walk through the darkest of terrors helplessly.  If I put myself in my mom's shoes, I too would hate that.  To watch my own daughter who I raised and I loved losing her children in slow-motion, one after the other in a cold, sterile hospital room -I would melt down. 

My own mom stood next to me when they broke Jude's water.  She heard it come out too.  My own mom held my son more than I did.  Loving him, loving me.  My own mom looked at both twins, took pictures of them, and talks about them as members of our family.  They say having a child is like having your own heart walk outside your body, I can only imagine how my mom's heart was those cruel days as I drowned.  I never want to lose another child again and I never want to watch my children go through the loss of their own children.  Nobody wants this.

Lastly, I want to wish you all a Happy Mother's Day.  I know so many amazing mom's in my life.  I know so many amazing women who follow the blog and have made it through the infertility battle to motherhood.  But I also know so many women who are still in the "trenches" and still fighting for their families, 2, 3,8 years later-you women are moms as well.  You have been in love with your unborn child since day 1 of ttc and that love is real.  When I was pregnant with the triplets I bought a children's book for them called "My Love Will Find You."  Our. Love. Will. Find. Them. Too.

I leave you with 2 great links.  1 is called "World's Best Mom " and it's written by a husband of a mom who just lost her child as well.  The 2nd, is a video I've been saving to share, that honors all moms on Mother's Day.

Video for ALL mothers

The Movie Noah and Everything Else That Led To Public Meltdown

April 27, 2014

Yesterday was Darren's birthday.  It started off with a fun brunch downtown Portland with his family.

The last few days I've had some serious PMS (and negative pregnancy test) letting me know that this
last medicated cycle was a bust, which probably adds to my meltdown.

When we got home, I started reading a book I found online called "Brining in Finn." It's about a woman named Sara who had gotten pregnant via IVF with twins but lost them at 22 weeks due to going into preterm labor.  It's an amazing story of her 7 year IF journey. Every since losing Jude and Brinly I have had to be VERY careful about what I allow myself to read.  I'm been gifted a couple different books, but most the time they end up upsetting me.

For example, Darren got me this book for Christmas of a collection of stories of other women that have suffered a loss.  But unless they lost twins, due to my current grief, it almost made me feel more alone.  I had to put the book down when I read a story SO similar to J and B, but in her story, her Baby A made it after delivering Baby B.  While it's amazing she got the miracle, I couldn't help but feel hurt and forgotten that I did not.

All this to say, I thought maybe I was ready to read a story that I knew had hope at the end.  However, yesterday I spent much of the afternoon reading and ended up bookmarking it right after her cerclage failed and water broke.  Tears streaming down my face, I could relate to the story a little too much.  A smooth pregnancy.  Passing all the "safe" milestones.  And then out of nowhere a horrifying nightmare begins and while you are in it you cannot accept its real.

I had to get ready for dinner with the family and a movie.  At dinner I ran into one of my old favorite students.  She graduated a couple years ago and her and I had gotten close.  I truly love her and her twin sister and still keep in contact.  Anyway, this student had an unplanned pregnancy and was pregnant (much further along) when I was pregnant.  We ended up delivering on the same day (she was 41 weeks, I was 18) and we kept in contact during the hospital.  I am so amazed with the selflessness of this girl-her father had told her of a family he knew of who had gone through failed IVF and wanted to adopt.  She made the decision to carry the child and give her to this family.  Although I was pregnant with twins, I had originally been pregnant with triplets.  When I first heard this, I told her that if anything fell through, I would want to adopt her child.  This is odd because overall we don't feel like adoption is the current route for us.  However, if one of my students offered me something like this, I think I would be 100% in.  I knew for a fact I could love her child with my whole heart because of knowing her.  I also knew that the family she had chosen was awesome, and it was "meant to be" since I was pregnant anyway.

I went up to her to say hi, I hadn't seen her since we were both pregnant.  She ran around, hugged me and then with the sweetest saddest look stepped back, touched her stomach, and frowned at me, acknowledging the sadness that I hide from most people.  In that moment, I felt so loved and I truly felt like she "got it."  "If you know someone who has lost a child and you're afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn't forget that they died.  You're not reminding them.  What you're reminding them of is that you remember that they lived and that's a great, great gift." Although her child is alive and well, she too experienced a loss to some degree.  She was just pregnant so she could imagine the pain and horror of delivering a baby too soon.  It was one of the first times that someone outside my family had the guts to bring it up and it was beautiful.  She and the adopted parents do open adoption so she gets to see her little girl often. 

After dinner we went to see the movie "Noah."  I knew several Christians are in a uproar because its not biblically accurate (it makes it seem way more legend meets magic meets mythical).  I didn't care since it's Hollywood, we were just curious to see the film.  Overall I thought it was kind of lame, with low-budget looking animations (the animals were all clearly fake) and Noah being slightly evil for a bit.  If you want to watch the movie, don't read further, but this was the straw that broke the camel's back (I'm the camel).

Sham, one of his son's, has a wife who is infertile.  Before boarding the arc, Noah's wife asks their grandfather to "bless" her to make her fertile.  Next thing we know his wife is pregnant.  Noah somehow believes all man kind is evil and that God only wants animals on the earth once the arc lands.  There are no women on the arc besides his own wife and his infertile daughter in law.  When he finds out she is pregnant he informs them that if it's a boy he will spare it but if it's a girl, he will kill the baby (to stop future reproduction).  So,  the couple tries to escape, Noah's wife tries to talk some sense into him, but he is 100% set he will kill the baby.

The girl goes into labor, has a girl and then what?  There is another.  Twins.  It's another girl.  She is sobbing freaking out hysterically because she knows Noah is going to kill them.  I don't know if it was the mirrored hysterical cries that started making me uneasy or the twin thing but I thought I was fine.

Next scene she is holding her babies on top of the arc and Noah comes up with a knife.  The babies are crying hard and she asks if she can comfort them first so they can die peacefully.  She calms them down and then Noah says "you shouldn't watch this" and she looks him in the eyes and says "no, they will die in my arms with me"  (cue second huge lump in my throat).  Noah holds the knife above them for a freakishly long time (my eyes shut trying to ask Darren to narrate) and after about 10 seconds of intense suspense, he lowers his mouth and kisses each one on the cheek.  He didn't kill them.

It all set in.  The book I was reading, my old student encounter, the cramping/spotting, and then the cruel reminder that God is my situation for whatever reason DID lower the knife on my twins, I had to walk out, run to a bathroom.  I put my head on the wall and lost control.  I hate crying in public, the type you can't control.  This rarely happens.  I was trying to be quiet but was probably freaking out the other women coming and going. 

In the car Darren's mom was sweet and said it was hard for her to watch and that she can only imagine how I felt.  I pulled it together but grief is a crazy crazy ride.  I had been strong for so many days.  I found this image on a support group I follow.  It's so true.  The bottom reminds me of grief. 

RESOLVE: Don't Say This

April 23, 2014

This is RESOLVE week-infertility awareness.  1 in 8 struggle to some level with fertility issues.  I saw this post on "Still Standing Magazine" and had to share to put things into perspective for friends/family/strangers that don't understand infertility and how comments sound to us...

"So, what do you think people would say to you if you were paraplegic instead of infertile? (author unknown)

1. As soon as you buy a wheelchair, I bet you'll be able to walk again!
2. You can't use your legs? Boy, I wish I was paralyzed. I get so tired of walking, and if I were paralyzed I wouldn't have to walk anywhere!
3. My cousin was paralyzed, but she started shaving her legs in the other direction and she could walk again. You should try that.
4. I guess God just didn't mean for you to be able to walk.
5. Oh, I know exactly how you feel, because I have an ingrown toenail.
6. Sorry, we don't cover treatment for paraplegia, because it's not a life-threatening illness.
7. So... when are *you* going to start walking?
8. Oh, I have just the opposite problem. I have to walk walk walk - everywhere I go!
9. But don't you *want* to walk?
10. You're just trying too hard. Relax and you'll be able to walk.
11. You're so lucky... think of the money you save on shoes.
12. I don't know why you're being so selfish. You should at least be happy that *I* can walk.
13. I hope you don't try those anti-paralysis drugs. They sometimes make people run too fast and they get hurt.
14. Look at those people hiking... doesn't that make you want to hike?
15. Just relax, you'll be walking in no time.
16. Oh do my legs hurt, I was walking and walking and going up and down the stairs all day.
17. I broke my leg skiing, and was on crutches for weeks, and was worried I'd have a permanent limp, but I'm 100% healed.
18. I'd ask you to be in my wedding party but the wheelchair will look out of place at the altar.
19. You're being selfish, not coming on the hike with us, and looking at all of my track & field trophies.
20. Don't complain, you get all the good parking places.
21. If you just lose weight your legs will work again.
22. If you would just have more sex, you could walk!
23. You don't know how to walk? What's wrong with you? Here let a real man show you how to walk!
24. You are just trying too hard to walk. Give up, and then you'll walk.
25. Here, touch my legs, then you'll walk!
26. Just take a vacation, and the stress-break will be sure to get you walking!
27. When *we* were young we only had to worry about having to walk too much.
28. And I bet a paraplegic going to a bookstore doesn't find books about paralysis stacked next to all the books on running...

So here's a little hint. If someone you know tells you that she's trying to get pregnant and it's taking longer than expected, DON'T tell her to just relax. Don't tell her to adopt and then surely she'll get pregnant with her own child. Don't say, "At least it's fun trying!" Scheduling sex with the person you love isn't fun. Getting vaginal ultrasounds every other day and intramuscular injections in your derriere twice a day isn't fun. Finding out every single month that - yet again - it didn't work this month either is Just. Not. Fun.

 DO tell her that you're sorry she's going through such pain/grief/frustration. Do tell her that you're glad she told you. Do tell her that, even if you don't bring it up (because you want to respect her privacy and understand that she might not feel like talking about it sometimes), that you're there for her if she ever wants to talk or vent."

My Bucket List:

My Bucket List: