Monday, January 28, 2013

Open PSA to all regarding the loss of a child and your behavior

I have had the unfortunate misfortune to lose a few babies to miscarriage and stillbirth. It sucks, but it makes me expressly qualified to write this. You see I am not the only one who has suffered this inconceivable loss. It seems like things go in waves, and right now the wave of multiple people I know losing their kid before knowing them seems to be high - a fact that makes my heart ache. My prayer would be that no mom - or dad for that fact - would ever experience the heart wrenching pain that drains the parent of all energy and lead to a crisis of faith. That being said, it is a reality of our broken humanity. My hope is that through this post, I can give some insights on HOW one should behave toward these parents - what is acceptable to do and what is not. I have broken up this post into GREEN light, YELLOW light, and RED light actions. Please consider what I have to say - I speak from experience.

GREEN LIGHT (You can say or do these things without risking offending the grieving parents)

-- GIVE THEM SPACE!!!! This seems counter-intuitive. When an adult dies we rally around the grieving family, hug, and tell stories about the person who has passed. But when a parent loses a child so young there are no stories to be told. This unexpected loss leaves everyone asking "WHY?" "WHAT?" "WHERE?" Why did this happen? What exactly happened? Where do we go from here? All these questions have limited to no answered. The parents need time to process this in their own way. This processing can't be done when everyone is calling, texting, trying to get a hold and by extension smother them. The mom and dad of the lost infant need time to spend with each other and grieve before they can face the world and grieve with extended family members. That is not to say they don't love their extended family, but the moment the vow of two becoming one flesh in marriage, the parents of the these new (grieving) parents and siblings become EXTENDED family, not immediate family. A new family is created in marriage, and while this is generally celebrated, when a child is lost, this is the first thing that is forgotten. Even if you are the mom, sister, grandmother, you are not entitled to the inner circle. Get over yourself - they are in more pain than you are. They will reach out when they are ready. Especially if they request time to process what is going on, GIVE THEM SPACE!

-- LISTEN!!! When the mom or dad does reach out to you don't talk. JUST LISTEN. Let him or her guide the conversation. Don't ask an excessive amount of questions. Scratch that, don't ask any questions. Ok, maybe one or two, but none about what happened - at least not in the first year. The wounds are still very fresh and you can't imagine how much pain it causes. Trust me, he or she will open up when he or she is ready. One day it will be like word vomit. The first time details are told it will be a raw explosion of emotions and tears. If the parent wants to talk about the latest baseball game, let him or her. Be grateful that they are talking to you.

-- BE AVAILABLE! But don't be offended if you are not the one that is "chosen" to be the first, second, or even third confidant. After my husband and I dealt with the unexpected loss of our son the people I reached out to weren't the people you would expect. I reached out to a few members of the clergy (ok, so that one should be expected.) Next I reached out to a friend who was also pregnant at the time and who's baby just happened to be due 1 month before my son was supposed to be. This friend just happened to be a social worker. I just needed some sense of "normalcy" while knowing I wasn't going to be interrogated. I also wanted to know about some counseling resources. After a while I reached out to a friend who just happened to be pregnant also, and who's daughter was supposed to be born within a day of my son (they practically shared the same due date). She was (and still is) a dear friend who was pregnant with her third child, never has/had lost a child, but is one of the best prayer warriors I have ever met. I still required some sense of normalcy and hope that things could be better. If you notice - I reached out to men who have no clue what is like to be a parent, but are good listeners - I reached out to two women who know what is like to be a parent, but no clue what it is like to lose a child, but they are good listeners. It wasn't the overbearing people who kept badgering me who I talked to first. I wasn't ready for all their questions so I kept them at arm's length. It was the gentle ones who listened who helped me through the tough times. I did talk with family members about it, but much later. It wasn't until months later that I reached out to fellow mothers who had lost children. All in due time.

-- "Is there anything I can do for you?" The answer is generally "NO". Their world has been rocked to the core and nothing will change this. Offering to help, even if it is just to cook a meal is about all we really can do. Offer once and let them be. Your offer has been noted and will be taken up on IF the mom or dad needs your assistance.

-- PRAY FOR THEM! They don't have to know you are doing it. Prayers are always welcome and probably do the most help.

YELLOW LIGHT (Depending on who you are and who the parent is and the relationship you have toward each other)

-- Calling the parents. I said earlier that you should leave them be - and you should. But you can call once - not once a day, not once an hour - ONCE. Don't be offended if they don't answer. You can call to tell them you are available to listen or do something for them. Let the ball be in their court. This action should be reserved for people VERY close to the the couple. If you think you MIGHT be in this inner circle then you probably are not. You need to KNOW that they would want to hear from you before they are ready to reach out to you. Writing an email or letter might even be better. That way they can read it when they are ready without feeling flooded and bombarded.

RED LIGHT (These should go without saying, but people are dumb. They should never be done or said. If I find you ever say or do them I WILL hunt you down like a starving lion and verbally rip you limb from limb)

-- "It's ok. You can have another kid." WHAT?!?! This mom or dad has just had a child die. This isn't a puppy or kitten. IT IS A HUMAN. It is genetically HALF of him or her. There were hopes and dreams that were wrapped up in the excitement of a new life - THIS NEW LIFE! Not some future life. THIS LIFE. It took my husband and I awhile to become pregnant and there were so many hopes and dreams wrapped in this little new life. We didn't know if we would ever be able to have another.

-- Asking when the mom or dad might try again for another child. This is similar to the previous one, but slightly different. You are acknowledging the loss and looking towards the future yes. What you are forgetting is that this parent may (and probably still is) grieving the loss of the child. I talked to a mother who has dealt with the loss of her son, but still openly grieves the loss over 20 years later. There really are things you NEVER get over.

-- "You failed at becoming a parent." I can't make this up. Someone actually told me I failed at becoming a mother because I lost my baby. I didn't fail. God placed a baby in my belly. He also called the baby back to Himself before my dear son took a breath. It wasn't my fault. I did nothing to cause it. I am a mother to my son and always will be. I am not a failure and any mom who loses a baby through no fault of her own isn't either. God has a plan for all His children - we just often don't know what it is.

So in conclusion all I am asking is that you:

1. Think before speaking
2. Take your cues from the grieving parents. If they want space, give them space. If they want to talk, talk to them. You never know what will help someone grieve and what helps may change minute to minute.
3. Pray for healing, understanding and comfort.

Teaching the little lady the essentials!

My daughter is starting to talk - well learn how to.  Her latest two words - "attack" and "Jesus."  You might be thinking, what in the world are you teaching your kid?  Well.... the essentials!

"Attack" - During bath time (her favorite part of any day) I have decided that I can make this amusement time - FOR ME!  She has bath squirties!  I fill them all up and squirt her in the chest or back, usually while saying "Baby's under attack!" in a fun voice.  She giggles because the water tickles.  She has learned to turn the tables on me though.  Now she hits the top of the water with all her might, splashing me (and everything else in the bathroom) and says "ATTACK!"  So now my dear, sweet daughter thinks being splashed with water is what "attack" means!  HE HE HE!  I am ok with that.

"Jesus" - This one makes my heart smile.  Although she learned this from a book that plays an off key version of "Silent Night."  It also has LED lights around the baby Jesus that makes Him a techno-colored nightmare.  It really is very odd to have a glowing baby Jesus in a book.  But she and I have had many conversations about the baby Jesus.  I love the fact she is learning her faith, but I need to find other methods than the glowing techno-colored nightmare!

Next words don't need to be such opposites!  But they probably will!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

It all comes around again...

Today I was watching the March for Life with my daughter and after she went to sleep I was "flipping" ("clicking", "checking"... whatever word fits here) through pictures on facebook and the news about it and I saw someone that looks VERY familiar.  This is a face I will never forget - and not in a bad way.

The story goes back to November 21, 2009.  I was an adult leader in charge of a very small group of students at the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC).  This was the last day of the conference and I wanted to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation before the big (AWESOME) closing mass, so after the last session of the day I headed over to where (I thought) all the priests were suppose to be.  I found out that I was on the OPPOSITE side of the building than I was supposed to be, so I hustled over to where I was supposed to be only to discover that my lack of navigational skills placed me at the back of the line.  And when I say I was at the back of the line, I WAS THE LAST PERSON in line.  I called one of the other leaders to come get my group and take them to dinner and I would catch up with them later.  Since my students were smart and had partaken in confession earlier in the day waiting for one of their sessions to start I didn't want to punish them by making them wait for me.  I thought the line would go faster than it did and I waited for 90 minutes to have my confession heard.  By this point I had 15 minutes to run down the Power and Light District (NCYC was in KC this year), find somewhere I could grab a very quick bite to eat, and somehow find my group at the spot we agreed we would meet.  Well once I got to the spot we were going to meet I was VERY hungry and wanted to at least meet up with my group before going across the street to find some food.  Well my group was NO WHERE to be found.  (Side note:  I am 5'0, so I am not a tall person which makes this more of a challenge).  I must have looked like a little lost kid in Walmart because this (equally lost) priest asked me if he could help me.  Well at this point I was exhausted, very hungry and my feet were hurting from walking for 3 days solid.  I broke down crying.  I explained I lost my group.  I ached.  And most of all I missed dinner because I was last in line for confession.  I promise I must have sounded like the whiniest person on the planet because I just verbally exploded.  Worst of all this wonderful God-fearing man was eating the most delightful smelling club sandwich and fries out of a to-go container.  (One of my favorites!!)  Knowing a little something about the food service business, I knew that this meal doesn't take long and I could possibly get one and still make it in the door in time for the closing ceremonies and mass I asked where he got it.  He pointed to the bar across the street with a line half way down the block (Like almost every other joint at 645pm!!)  I started walking across the street thinking I could get in quickly for a to-go order.  I was told it would be at least 45 minutes before my food would be ready, so I left without food.  Figuring I would just offer it up to Christ as a sacrifice I headed back to the huge crowd to once again look for my group.  The priest saw me walking back over without a to-go container and summoned me.  I explained that if I waited for food I wouldn't be able to have my hour of fasting prior to communion and I would get something after all the festivities (a minimum of 3 hours later).  I think he knew desperation when he saw it.  He had only ate half his sandwich and 3/4 of his fries.  He offered them to me saying that no one should have to go hungry because of confession - I had chosen the greater good and should not be punished.  I told him I wasn't going to take his food.  He told me if I did not eat it he was going to throw it away and he hated wasting food when there were so many hungry people in the world.  I told him he should eat it because he paid for it and there was no way what little he had eaten was enough to fill him up (he wasn't a short person by any stretch of the imagination).  Well he told me he was done and it was all mine.  After a few more rounds of "I can't take food away from a priest" he finally said, "don't you realize if I ever find which door I am supposed to be entering I am going to vest and feed you food from Heaven.  You take food from a priest every time you attend mass."  Well crap.... I was caught.  I accepted his charitable offering and OH MAN DID IT TASTE AMAZING!!  Hunger is the best seasoning!  I tried to pay him for what I was consuming and he wouldn't take it.  Stubborn priest!  Since I had accidentally went in the wrong door the night before and ended up walking by the room the priests held their vestments in, I told him I knew where he was supposed to be and that he should follow me.  As we walked to the other side of the building we got to talking.  He was from the diocese of Helena, MT.  He had been ordained a few years prior (something that was obvious from his youthful look - I actually was shocked at how long he had actually been a priest - 4 years.  I thought he was NEWLY, and I mean only a few months ago ordained.)  He was from the town outside where my husband and I had spent our honeymoon.  His home parish was the same church we had attended while we were there.  I kept gushing over how much I loved that town and my husband and I had talked about how awesome it would be to move there because we had fallen head over heels in love with the people, the town, the mountains, everything!  When we finally got to the door he needed to be at, he looked at me and told me, "if you really want to repay me, pray for vocations in my diocese.  We are really in a bind with limited numbers of priests."  You know I never did ask his name (I copped out and just kept calling him Father and he kept answering to it!).   I never did find my group until after the festivities.  We met up at the hotel!

I think I saw him again today in a picture at the March for Life.  He was surrounded by youth, nuns, and looked happy.  I hope it was him.

So thank you Father - wherever you are these days.  Thanks for answering your vocational call.  Thank you for feeding me physically and spiritually that day.  And most of all, know that I still pray for vocations in your diocese and all diocese and I am teaching my daughter to do the same.  I think knowing that would make you smile.

Learning not to compare

I suffer from a condition where I always feel like I am failing as a mom.  This has been made worse by my daughter's former pediatrician making me feel like a horrible mom because my daughter is off the charts tall and way below where she should be in the weight category.  She is tall and thin.  She doesn't look sickly and is very active - always walking and bouncing around.  So am I starving my kid, NO!!!  I mean what was God thinking when he gave me such a wonderful little kid?  I am forever comparing myself to friends I know with kids a little older than my daughter and in my head I don't measure up.  But I have been trying to figure out that not everyone is perfect and I need to stop being so hard on myself but when things like this happen...

So I was feeling especially exhausted a few days ago.  I had got home from work at my usual time (3am) and my daughter was WIDE awake.  Well since her dad had to work the next morning and I knew she wasn't going to go back to sleep anytime soon, so we went out to the living room (farthest we could get away from daddy so he could sleep) and couch for cuddle time.  She was awake until 530!  Talk about EXHAUSTED mommy.  She woke up a little later than her normal 10am - she waited until 1030.  Somehow those times don't add up.  2.5 hours of play time does not equal 30 minutes of sleep in time.  So in the morning she had created one very nasty diaper.  It was like road construction tar caked on her little tushy and wipes were NOT doing the trick.  So at my wits end I decided to sit her on the toilet and use the cloth diaper sprayer to get off the majority before giving her a bath.  Well the water coming out of the diaper sprayer is super cold and she DID NOT LIKE IT!!  Poor baby!!  But she did get a nice warm bath after with loads of play time.  The entire time she was screaming because her bottom was super cold I was crying and trying to calm her down.  As she was bathing I told her, "I know, I know, C's mom would never do this to her."  Later on when she was happy because she got loads of play time in warm water I was reflecting on what happened and said to my little lady, "well yeah, C's mama might do it.  I wouldn't put it past her to let her boys play in the mud then hose them down on the back porch before letting them come in the house too."  Sometimes you have to do what you have to do to keep your life sane. 

At the end of the day I have the happiest kid I know.  She is fed, changed and safe.  So I am doing ok, right?

Friday, January 11, 2013

They don't make them like they used to

For the feast of the Epiphany my little lady got 3 books and their corresponding stuffed friends. One of these was "The Velveteen Rabbit". I had seen this book in the kids section of Barnes and Nobel more times than I could count but had never read it. Not even in my childhood - at least not that I could remember. So why did I buy it without reading it you might ask. Well let me tell you ... I was in a hurry when I went shopping and didn't take the time to browse through it. Also I have made it my mission to instill a love of reading into my child so the more books the better, right?

Well the first time I read the book was the first time my little Missy-Moo got to hear it too. IT IS SO GOOD! It is well written. It has a good plot. There is substance to the story. It is like Aesop's fables (another book she got) - real stories with meat on the bones! I will admit she doesn't have the attention span yet for these long of stories, but I am looking forward to when she does!

I am always looking for good stories/books for the little one so if you have suggestions let me know!