Still Playing School: October 2012

Capture Your Grief - Days 28, 29, 30

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Day 28: Memory

First touch.

Day 29: Music

I sang a lot to Violet during her time with us.  The songs were random, but perfect.  Blame it on the pain medication and lots of Nick Jr. with E, but here is one that I sang to her a lot.  "I hear a pattern calling me back to my babies."  I love that it reminds me of her now in the most subconscious part of my mind.

Day 30: Your Grief - Tell The World

My heart will be forever broken because hers was, too.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 27

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Day 27: Artwork

I found Suzanne through Glow in the Woods, a fantastic community for baby loss families (and the first online resource where I truly felt "at home").  She also learned during her pregnancy that Nathaniel would not live long after birth.  Late last summer and early into the fall, we traded emails, sharing our stories, babies, and souls.  I will never forget staring at Nathaniel's beautiful pictures in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and Violet still rolled in my belly.

Before Violet was born, Suzanne sent me sage tea from her garden to stop my milk production.  She also sent a ceramic mug with a tea cup insert to brew the tea and a candle.  I have tried to since buy the same scent of the candle in Pacifica's perfume line, but it's unavailable.  The smell was perfect and I know this sounds silly, but the color of the mug was perfect, too.  I felt so comforted by this friend so far away.  I still use the mug regularly, thinking of Suzanne and wishing we were having tea or coffee together throughout this first, difficult year for both of us.

I vaguely remember her asking me awhile ago if she could draw Violet.  Of course, I agreed then promptly forgot about it.  Until the package arrived yesterday.  When I saw her name on the return address, I knew whatever was inside would be perfect.

It was, all of it.  The card, the artwork.  Her portrait of our girl.

The photo she used is the one where Violet opened her one eye as much as she could.  She never opened her other eye.  The more I stare at this piece, the more of V I see coming through.  It's almost as it transforms and becomes more alive as I study it.  Her lips, especially, are perfect.  It's more "her" than the photograph.  To say I love it is an understatement.

Suzanne got it all perfect, again.  Thank you my wonderfully talented and loving friend.

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Capture Your Grief - Days 25 & 26

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Day 25: Baby Shower/Blessing

While we didn't have a shower for V, our Kindermusik family did shower us with gifts of comfort and love our whole family both before she arrived with a gift basket and after with a brunch to celebrate her life.

We also were surrounded with love in the form of gifts, meals, and well wishes from all over.  Thank you for these gifts we will never forget.

Day 26: Their Age

No picture for this one, but I've always been amazed that Violet was with us for exactly 2.5 days, which is the average age for a baby with Trisomy 13.

From Wednesday, November 2nd at 9:04 am to Friday, November 4th at 7:30 pm.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 24: An Amazing Sister

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Day 24: Siblings

Dear E,

You amaze me.

Every day you talk about your brother AND your sister when others hesitate to say her name.  This morning, you whispered, "Baby Vi," so soft and sweetly and then you screamed, "Baby D," in a silly boisterous voice defining them as I imagine their personalities to be.  Sometimes I think you know them better than anyone.

You take my breath away.

You ask me to lift up my shirt as you sing to him, bring him your treasured Cowie, set a binky on my belly, and blow raspberries to wake him up.  I am in awe that you are so young yet so involved and interested in his pregnancy.  He has been a person to you for many months already and your sister continues to be a real person to you, too.  It's beautiful.

You inspire me.

You seem to know exactly how to naturally incorporate them both into our lives as they should be.  "Mys sister died," you'll say, a bit sadly but more matter of fact than anything.  Just like that.  Yep, she did.  And we're still here, still waiting for your brother, surviving.  As a side note, I hope you never stop saying "mys" instead of "my."

You give me hope.

My first born girl, you started my journey as a mother.  It's not what I imagined it to be, but because you are in it, it is even better than my wildest dreams could've imagined.

You are my strength.
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Capture Your Grief - Days 21, 22, & 23

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Day 21: Altar, Shrine, or Sacred Space

I'm sorry, I just can't take a picture of and share the space where we keep Violet's memento items on display.  It's too personal and private to me.  No one has even ever seen it except my husband and me.

Day 22:  Place of Birth

Day 23: Her Photo

I love this one for a few reasons: the tear on her cheek (We have a shot from right before this that E loves where V is SCREAMing.  She loves that and the picture we have of her getting her dirty diaper changed.  Anything where V was a typical baby is a favorite of hers!) and the brown headband that Karen brought that was just perfect for V and matched this dress.  How Karen knew to bring this perfect accessory, I'll never know.

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Capture Your Grief - Days 17, 18, 19, & 20

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I'm so far behind.  I can't even begin to explain how tired and sore this pregnancy is making me.  6 more weeks.

Day 17: Anniversary, Birthday, Due Date

We haven't had any of these (yet) except for her due date, which was uneventful for me since I knew she'd be an early, planned c-section.  After her birthday on November 2, I'm sure I'll write about what we do to celebrate.

Day 18: Your Family Portrait

One of the worst things about losing Violet is knowing that we'll never have a complete family portrait again once D is born.

Day 19: Project

Our fundraiser was a great project for me in the early months of my grief.  We are hoping to have something again this spring, but it will probably be a bit smaller due to having a new little one keeping me busy, too.

Day 20: Charity

The charity that we are raising money for in our fundraisers is Sustaining Grace, which provides non-medical 3D ultrasounds for families who are pregnant with a baby who has a fatal diagnosis.  This picture is from our ultrasound that we received from them.  Look at her smile, safe inside me!
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Capture Your Grief - Day 16

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Day 16: Release

The three in the middle are ours to baby V.
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Capture Your Grief - Days 13, 14, & 15

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Day 13: Signs

This post outlines the most profound, "Hi, Momma, I'm here," sign I've had, but there have been others since then.  Smaller ones, but ones I'd love to share if you ask me.

Day 14: Community

I would be lost without the moms I've met through the Sweet Pea Project.  This picture is from last night at their balloon release.  I hugged Michelle, Lisa, Bethany, Melissa, Nicole, Julie, and Jenn.  They are my community.

Day 15: Wave of Light

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A Morning With E

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E had to get a flu shot this morning, so I bribed her with a trip to Chocolate World after.  She had me laughing at the doctor's office because she didn't cry when she got her shot, she just said a very annoyed, "Ouuuuuuuuuch!"

Then on the drive to Chocolate World she decided she didn't want to go because of the part of the tour where you go through the warm oven.  I told her that getting a shot was much worse than that and she was brave for that part of the day!  I can't believe she didn't flinch at her vaccination, but I had to talk her into going to Chocolate World.

She also got a pumpkin shaped sugar cookie with sprinkles there.  I love my days with her!

Conversations in the car:
Me:  "Who do you want to invite to your birthday party?"
E: "Baby D! (pause) And Daddy and Momma and baby Vi."
Me:  "Ok, what about your friends?"
E: "A and N (our neighbors) and their mommies and daddies."
Me: "Anyone else?"
E: "X and Nannie and Pappy.  Mutti."
Me: "What about E and I?"
E: "Yes! And Caillou and Leo."
Me: "They are cartoons."
E: "Yes."
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A Rainbow Update - 32 Weeks

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I'm very emotional.  I have work to do and Capture Your Grief posts to catch up on, but where do I go for solace?  Here, to my writing.  That speaks volumes, doesn't it?

Friday night my friends had a baby shower for baby D and me.  He was celebrated with love and his older sister was remembered in such special ways at the shower, too.  It couldn't have been more perfect.  I came home to take the tags off of so many tiny blue items, which was bliss.  I will dedicate a whole post to the shower later with pictures.

I only had one moment, holding up a pair of pajamas, where I thought about how I should have done that last year for her.  As much as we wanted a little girl again this time to replace that lost sister for E, I am now very grateful that he is a boy.  It separates them a bit more in my heart and mind during this confusing time.

Last night, we were admitted to the hospital with pre-term contractions 3 minutes apart.  After 2 hours of monitoring and several tests, they confirmed that the contractions weren't labor (yet) and gave me medication to slow them.

The trouble maker.

Tomorrow we have a volunteer ultrasound with a student technician, then we're going to Sweet Pea Project's 3rd Annual Remembrance Gathering.  E is excited to release balloons to send to baby Vi and I am looking forward to lots of hugs with other mommas I've met over the past year.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 12

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Day 12: Scents

One of the best pieces of advice I received as we were preparing to meet Violet was to get a special scented lotion to use on her that I could later smell to remind me of her.  A great friend brought me samples of Philosophy's Pure Grace and Baby Grace, but Pure Grace was the winner.

I remember rubbing it into her soft skin and soaking in the smell.  Now, I have the lotion, soap, and perfume for myself and it takes me right back to her.  I can wear it on the days I need her close and no one knows I am carrying her with me and healing my heart all day as I smell it.

I think I'll always collect every product in this scent available!
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Capture Your Grief - Day 11

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Day 11: Supportive Family/Friends

E has a very special friend who she's known since she was 6 months old.  His name is X.  We all met at a Baby Signs workshop.  I remember that we talked about teething, trading advice, then later met again in a Kindermusik class the following year.

I was newly pregnant with V.  I don't think I had even told anyone yet.  X would dismiss his momma, Michelle, and his Nannie to come sit in my lap during class.  E was very independent so she didn't mind and I soaked up some little boy time as we swayed, clapped, and danced together.  We laughed that X had two laps in the class, but he chose mine.  Now I know that he had another reason for "picking" us.

Our two families grew close as the months passed.  Last summer, E and X had a play date at a playground during which I had the chance to talk to Michelle about her first son, Raysen.

During their 20 week ultrasound, Raysen showed some anomalies that would make life after he was born difficult for him.  His family prayed for a miracle and hoped that with medical interventions he would pull through.  After 2 days of fighting, he passed away.  Three years later, they were blessed with their rainbow, X, who was quickly becoming E's best friend.

I remember Michelle telling me she didn't want to scare me since I was pregnant with Violet and quickly approaching our 20 week ultrasound ourselves.  I assured her that I wanted to hear all about Raysen.  I sympathized with her, going home that night and saying to my husband, "I can't imagine going to your 20 week ultrasound not knowing anything was different, then finding out your baby might not live."

And well, we know how our story continues.  Not a month later, it was us in that ultrasound room, getting the same news.  Michelle was the one that realized I took a bit too long to get back on Facebook and announce the gender of our baby.  She texted me, checking to see if everything was alright, while telling her mother (who we are also super close to) that she was terrified that something was very wrong.

My sweet friend was right about our news.  I called her so often in those early days of Violets's diagnosis, hating that she understood, but clinging to the one person I knew face to face who had been through it and would talk to me about it.  We looked at Raysen's pictures together, she gave me advice about what to plan and think about, we cried together, and I told her that I hoped one day I could be to someone else what she was to me.  A life line in a bleak and barren grief landscape.  A smile that whispered, "I've survived.  You will, too."  Tears that showed that the pain never goes away, but it change with time.

She told me that her husband reminded her, "One day at a time," which quickly became my adopted motto, too.

Michelle got to meet, love on, and hold Violet before she went to be with Raysen.  Michelle and her husband returned the day we were released from the hospital without our daughter to help us load up the car, work on our discharge paperwork, and I know that her husband had a heart to heart with mine about what it meant to be a grieving dad.  Their support was and continues to be priceless to us.

X and E will grow up together sharing the experience of losing a sibling.  We attended Sweet Pea Project's Brothers and Sisters Picnic together this year.

Two here, two there.  Together.
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Capture Your Grief - Days 8, 9, & 10

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Day 8: Jewelry

I am very fortunate to have quite a bit of jewelry gifted to me in memory of Violet.  I have a purple bracelet that Susie made me, a purple bracelet with E & V charms that Alisha's mom made me, a purple and silver bracelet that Amber got me with Violet's name and dates on it, initial rings for all three of my kids from my sister, the memorial wrist bands we had made for Violet's fundraiser, the momma necklace I ordered with E and V's names that Violet held, and this necklace that Melissa, Dawn, and Megan got for me with her actual foot print on it.

The jewelry comforts me so much.  I love collecting it to carry her with me each day again!

Day 9: A Special Place

The room where she spent her whole life.

Day 10: Symbol 

A logo that Karen made for us for the fundraiser which encompasses all of the symbols that remind me of her: a violet, the color purple, her sweet feet.

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Jack-O-Lantern Sorting

I colored and cut out some jack-o-lantern clip art I had for sorting practice.  I used two different shades of orange, green or brown for the stems, and yellow or black for the inside of the pumpkins. 

First we sorted by whether they were lit up inside or not (yellow or black).  

Next we sorted by stem color.

Finally we sorted by triangle and non-triangle shaped eyes.

At that point, I lost her attention!  But she wanted you to know she loves sorting so we'll probably do lots more this month!

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Fall & Memory Triggers

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It all started on the first cool fall day this year when I stepped into a warm shower.  Something about the transition of that  temperature change took me right back to last fall when V was born.  It's fascinating to me that smells and temperatures can trigger memories that I've tried to get to all year with pictures and my mind with no success.

Nightmares started last week.  I've had two so far.  One where she was already gone and I was taking care of her body.  One were E was choking and she looked just like V did during her apnea episodes and I told my husband that I can't watch another one of my babies die.  I haven't been able to dream about her all year except in nightmares.

I'm sorry that the blog is going to be dark and real for the next month or so.  I promise to try to mix in upbeat parts as well.  I just don't know where else to get this out.  If you are still reading, thank you for walking this journey along with me.

I told a new friend last week that I feel badly imagining readers coming here for educational activities and stumbling into this mess of grief and loss and pain.

She said, "That's educational, too."
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Capture Your Grief - Day 7

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Day 7:  What To Say

A friend who I don't get to talk to often messaged me today.  She told me that she was thinking of our story, about Violet, about our pain and grief.  She told me that it was making her cry, but she thought I'd want to know.

I do.

There is nothing better than knowing that other people think about my girl.  In the early days, I would occasionally get a text of a picture of something that reminded someone of her.  As with anything else, this now happens less as more time passes.  I can feel like I'm the only person in the whole world who still thinks of her.  I know in my head that that's not true, but it can feel that way.

I love when people ask about her the same way they ask about E and D.  I love to compare the pregnancies and their birth stats, their hair color, their sizes.  Basically any part of Violet that I got to experience, I'd love to share if someone asks.  I walk around every day wanting to say her name but it's caught on my lips so that I don't make conversations awkward.

I don't always want to be the mother of the baby who died.  But I am.  So I love the chance to talk about her.  And I love knowing that you still think of her and smile or cry or miss her.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 6

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Day 6:  What Not To Say

This is specific to someone anticipating a loss.  If you know someone whose baby has a fatal prenatal diagnosis, please don't try to remind them to cherish every part of their child while they are still here.

This is a lot of pressure for the parents-to-be that they are most likely already placing on themselves without comments from anyone else.

They already know the clock is ticking.  Every breath is a reminder that the sand is slipping from the hour glass.  They probably aren't counting down the days until their due date like a typical expectant family.

I tried to record and feel and treasure every kick while I was pregnant with Violet, but I had to respect my grief and sadness, too.  Some days I just couldn't enjoy my time with her because I knew it was coming to an end.

Because we were fortunate to get some time with her while she was alive, I did (some how) calm down enough to occasionally take breaks from doing it all, cherishing every bit.  Others held her, changed her, loved on her, too.  That's the way it should be.

I took showers in the hospital, but I would be terrified to step out of the bathroom after them to see if she had taken a turn for the worse while I wasn't there.

I slept for about 2 or 3 hours the whole 58 and a half hours that she was alive, only because my night nurse shared her story with us.  Her son was stillborn.  I knew she understood and I let her wheel the bassinet out across the hallway to the nurses' station assured that she would wake me at any change.  I ended up waking on my own at the exact time that Violet started making some crying sounds.  We needed each other again; we had been apart longer than ever before.

Despite all we had with her, as soon as she had her first apnea episode, I told my husband I hadn't held her enough.  I remember him looking right into my eyes and telling me to stop.  So.  Much.  Pressure.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

Now we sometimes talk about how we wish we had taken more videos, but we have to remember we were trying to balance it all.  We were trying to enjoy her first hand.  It's never enough.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 5

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Day 5:  Memorial

We never held a memorial service or funeral for V, but my husband and I did spread some of her ashes at the beach, just the two of us.  We plan to spread them a few other places that catch our hearts in the years to come but yet always keep some as well.  Some day, I would love to have my ashes mixed with hers and then my husbands' too.

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Halloween Memory Game

If you need a quick and easy game for kids for a classroom or Halloween party make your own homemade Halloween Memory Game! This activity is simple yet there is so much learning happening behind these photos.

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Capture Your Grief: Day 3 & 4

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Day 3:  After Loss Self Portrait

The picture that I really wanted to post here (which my husband agrees would have been perfect) was one where I have cabbage leaves stuffed in my sports bra and I'm dramatically frowning at the camera.  Suppressing my milk after losing Violet was worse than the recovery from my c-section, pain wise.  It was a silly picture we took in the days after we came home that still makes me laugh, but I refuse to post it because I don't want people to be able to google image search something like that to find my blog!

Instead here is a picture of my husband and me at the fundraiser we held in her honor in April 2012.

Day 4: Treasured Item

This box contains the locks of her hair that we cut which are up there with my most favorite items that we have from her time with us.
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Capture Your Grief - Day 1 & 2

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Yesterday I realized just how hard this month leading up to Violet's first birthday would be for me.  We did some preschool activities, ran our morning errands, went to library story time, then I came home and sat down for lunch and cried and cried.  Sometimes I am shocked that I can so easily and unintentionally escape the grief by doing every day things, then I feel bad that they distracted me from something so huge.

My daughter.  Died.

I saw a few of my fellow baby loss mommas participating in Carly Marie's Capture Your Grief Project.  The idea is to post an assigned picture a day for the month of October to focus your grief and unite since October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  What a perfect way to navigate my grief until her birthday.

Day 1: Sunrise

This photo is actually one Karen pulled over and took on her drive to the hospital the day that Violet was born.  There is so much hope and beauty captured here and the same calmness that filled our days during our time with Violet.  

Day 2: Before Loss Self Portrait

I think often about the simplicity of who I was before.  But this picture, while not before the grief, is before the loss.

The last few minutes that she was safe inside of me before my c-section.  
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Our Autumn Nature Tray

This morning was the perfect time to take a walk and gather items for our autumn nature tray!

We even found these "bumpy cherries" that we had never seen before.  After coming home and doing some research, we learned that they are the fruit from a Japanese Flowering Dogwood tree.

I added a magnifying glass so E could really check everything out!

I plan to pick up some gourds and Indian corn to add to the tray soon.

We had a great morning of fall exploring!
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