Number 2

**SPOILER ALERT This post contains spoilers from the episode “Number 2” of the show This Is Us. Episode aired November 22, 2017.**

No, I’m not talking about THAT number 2. 🙂 I’m talking about the latest episode of This Is Us titled Number 2. I’m so thankful for this show. I’ve loved Milo Ventimiglia since his Gilmore Girls days and adored Mandy Moore since I was in high school. I’ve fallen in love with the actors that play their children on this show. But mostly, I love how REAL it is. This Is Us addresses the real, uncomfortable, and heart breaking topics that people often avoid discussing.

This last year, I’ve realized how important it is to share those uncomfortable stories with others. Sharing allows us to heal, connect, and support each other. When shows touch on these topics, it opens the door for more healing, connection, and support.

I just finished watching the most recent episode, and it reminded me that I’m not the only person who was so excited about their baby that they rushed out and bought things for a nursery. I’m not the only person who laid in my bed sobbing while my husband called to cancel an order for a crib. That I’m not the only person who returned items to Pottery Barn Kids praying that they wouldn’t ask me the reason for the return.

I’m not the only mother who wondered what I did wrong that resulted in losing my child. Feeling guilty that I let down my husband by losing his baby. Knowing that pregnancy and baby loss isn’t anyone’s fault, but struggling to remember that applies to me, also.

If you’re in the same shoes as me, please realize it was nothing you did wrong. It’s not your fault. If love could save our babies, I have no doubt they’d still be with us. Tell yourself that it’s okay to not be okay with the loss. It’s painful as hell, but you will get through it one day at a time. This is us…

We are loss moms. Moms who loved our baby from day one, before we had seen their face, held them, or even knew the gender. We are the moms who unleash our grief at odd times, in odd ways. Moms who would do anything to have one more second, one more day, one more month with our angels. There isn’t anything that can fill the void, but I’m so thankful to have a network of women who understand me and lift me up, even when they may be struggling themselves.

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for strong friends, second chances, and grace. Hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebrating the wonderful things in life.

Awareness

I’m Teri. I’m one of the many faces of pregnancy loss. For those of you who don’t know, October happens to be Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This also happens to be the first time in my life that I knew there was a month dedicated pregnancy and infant loss awareness. This time last year, I was blissfully ignorant to anything related to pregnancy or infant loss.

I’m realizing the world can be split into two lines like a game of red rover. One line stands on the ignorant side of an issue and the other line stands firmly aware. One side cannot imagine how the other side feels. Not until the other side calls your name. Red rover, red rover, let Teri come over. Just like that I ended up on the other side. I’m really proud to say that once I made it to the other side I was surrounded by strong, beautiful people who welcomed me with warm embraces.

We all need to be more aware. Some could argue that people are becoming too sensitive and too easily offended. But I will argue that many people are not sensitive or thoughtful enough. I know now how hurtful words and actions can be, even if they are not intended to be hurtful. There have been situations I’ve found myself in recently that would not have bothered me at all in the past but now reduce me to tears and panic attacks. I’m talking small things. I don’t believe my reactions mean that I’m overly sensitive or easily offended. Because of recent events, I do take longer to carefully choose my words. I am slower to make judgements about situations. I’m more thoughtful about how my actions may affect someone.

It’s my hope that sharing my journey will increase awareness, will help other grieving parents, and help people learn how to support their loved ones who experience a loss.

Facts about pregnancy and infant loss:

  • Pregnancy and infant loss includes miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and the death of a newborn.
  • Each year, approximately a million pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of the newborn child.
  • National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems.
  • Even if you never personally suffer the loss of a baby, you likely know multiple mothers who have experienced loss. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 10 to 25 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and this statistic does not include pregnancies not verified in a doctor’s office, still births, and infant losses.
  • Dads especially need to be given the space and time to grieve as they often are not only grieving their child but also grieving over the pain of their wives.

Please read this full list of rights, and have them in the back of your mind should you or a loved one ever experience a pregnancy or infant loss. Here are some of the main rights to remember.

  • To be told all options and to be given the choice (when medically possible) on how to proceed when your baby has died, such as D&C, natural delivery or delivery induced by medications.
  • To see, hold, and take photos of your child.
  • To name your baby.
  • To request to have or not have an autopsy or pathology exam.
  • To bury your child in accordance with your family’s beliefs and rituals.
  • To be informed of the grieving process.

How can you help support a grieving friend?

  • Take the time to listen and understand your friend’s needs and wants.
  • Remembering the child at holidays and on anniversary dates.
  • Not minimizing the grief of baby loss or seriousness of medical problems.
  • It’s never wrong to say the words, “I’m so sorry for the loss of your baby. Is there anything that I can do for you?”
  • Accepting that grief is an individual experience and can’t be rushed or forced to fit another person’s expectations.
  • Any sentence that begins with the words “at least” needs to be reconsidered.

Triggers

It’s almost been 2 months since my angel’s unbirthday. Most days I feel back to “normal.” Even feeling ready to try again and see what happens. I’m scared of having a similar experience as the first time, but hope eclipses fear most of the time. 

MOSTLY. 

I was watching the movie Mother! this weekend and without giving away any spoilers, there is a scene that had me come unglued. I’m talking sobbing and covering my eyes like a frightened child. 

This week I’ve received phone calls from my OBGYN office reminding me it’s time for my yearly appointment. As soon as I saw their number pop up on my phone I freaked the eff out. Sweating, panicked, a nervous wreck. Somehow I hadn’t imagined what it would feel like to sit in that room again knowing what happened the last two times I was there. Knowing about the secret hallway they use to escort distraught, hysterical mothers from one office to another without disturbing the patients waiting happily just on the other side of the wall. The side of the wall I sat on for the last 10 years. 

I’m realizing that many loss moms have post traumatic stress. There will be things we couldn’t possibly have mentally prepared ourselves for. But it is so frustrating when it happens. It’s like emotionally peeing your pants. In public. 

It’s the lack of control that gets me. I feel like I have most things in my life well organized and thought out and it’s infuriating to feel like after this long there are still things I can’t control. Triggers that time warp me back to the worst day of my life. 

How do you ever move past the fear? Past the lack of control? Does that go away when you finally have a baby in your arms?

A Very, Merry Unbirthday

When I was in high school, I had a wonderful history teacher who made sure to present each lesson in a way that we would never forget. She was out one week for jury duty and we had a substitute teacher. We were left with a video from the History Channel, and print outs of butterflies to color. Some people laughed at how silly it seemed to color in high school. How was our only assignment that week to color? It was a task you assign to kindergartners! When we finished coloring our butterflies, our substitute teacher instructed us to hang them around the walls of the classroom.

Our teacher came back to class, and true to form was ready to dive into another lesson we’d never forget. She passed out papers she’d printed, and on each sheet contained a story of a person who either survived or died during the Holocaust. We went around the room reading our stories aloud and as each story met it’s tragic end, the student was asked to remove their butterfly from the wall. The room’s vibrant butterflies soon disappeared and we were left staring at mostly white walls again. As I flipped over my story to read it, my heart was pounding inside my chest. I had a hard time making it through the story as tears welled up in my eyes expecting the worst. The little boy in my story escaped death by hiding and finding refuge with a family. He was a survivor. I remember feeling so relieved that my butterfly got to remain on the wall with only a handful of others.

The butterflies had made the stories become real, and tangible. We could quickly see the devastation of that tragic time. They were no longer the black and white xeroxed copies. They were unique, colorful, and special to us.

We are all unique, colorful, special masterpieces, yet we remain works in progress. Life is always challenging us, shaping us, and teaching us to become better versions of ourselves.


I was cleared by my doctor last week, and as I reflect back on the last year I am so thankful to be able to see the unexpected gains from my loss. The strangers half a country, or half a world away who have become friends. My heart softening, and my soul reaching to do more, see more, be more. Love more. Help more.

So I wanted to use my baby Gloria’s “unbirthday” to create something special. Something to remember her and the sweet babies of my “loss mom” friends. I want to celebrate their lives, even though they were far too short. I’ve carefully cut out paper hearts (along with the help of my sweet step kids). On the hearts, I wrote names of other precious babies who were carried, loved, and gone too soon. It was my hope to illustrate their lives in a similar way my teacher was able to connect teenage students to people who faced the unimaginable during that dark time.

Behind each heart lies a story. A story of a beautiful baby and their overjoyed mommy and daddy. Behind each heart is enough love to light up the night sky, and enough tears to rival a great storm. These children can never be replaced or recreated, and though they are out of our reach, they are always in our hearts.

Each heart is beautiful, special, and unique. Together the hearts and their stories are woven together forming a beautiful rainbow, the promise of good things to come. Our love for our babies brings us together and unites us. My wish is that this brings hope to people who helped me when I needed it most. That it lets another grieving parent know that they are never alone and that their child matters just much as the names on these hearts.


My Darling Gloria,

Today is a day I’ve both longed for and dreaded. I’d hoped it would be the day that I’d hear your sweet cry, see your beautiful face, and smell your soft baby skin. Your daddy would have had a big, happy smile on his face. I probably would have cried (ALOT!) as I marveled at your tiny nose and impossibly small fingers and toes.

I am so thankful for you and find comfort in knowing that the first thing you saw was the face of Jesus. That is, if Pa didn’t take you into his strong arms first and spoil you rotten! I’m thankful that you were never cold or hungry and never knew fear or sadness. I am thankful you never have to miss me as much as I miss you every second of every day. You’re my masterpiece.

We are going to celebrate YOU today. I hope you are looking down on us with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Please know we wanted you in our arms more than anything, and I long for the day when I can hold you, kiss your face, and never let you go.

xoxo, Mommy


“Beam Me Up” by P!nk

There’s a whole other conversation going on
In a parallel universe
Where nothing breaks and nothing hurts
There’s a waltz playing frozen in time
Blades of grass on tiny bare feet
I look at you and you’re looking at me

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
Probably just stare, happy just to be there holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Just beam me up.

Some black birds soaring in the sky,
Barely a breath like our one last sight
Tell me that was you, saying goodbye,
There are times I feel the shivering cold,
It only happens when I’m on my own,
That’s how you tell me, I’m not alone

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d Probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Just beam me up.

In my head, I see your baby blues
I hear your voice and I, I break in two and now there’s
One of me, with you

So when I need you can I send you a sign
I’ll burn a candle and turn off the lights
I’ll pick a star and watch you shine

Just beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
Probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Beam me up
Beam me up
Beam me up
Could you beam me up

Rainbowimg_2110

Fragile

Yesterday, I started my first scuba class. I read the book, watched the videos, and aced the written test. In the afternoon, we geared up and got in the pool. Using a regulator made me feel super human and it was amazing being underwater without having to come up for air. Then the instructor started to teach us the skills I’d read about – how to clear your mask when it floods with water, how to recover your regulator if it drops from your mouth, and how to share air with your buddy if you (or they) run out of air. I’m not joking, I came unglued. I panicked, and couldn’t do the tasks because I was unable to stop crying. I picked up all the gear I’d bought and never used, grabbed my bag and left. Frustration and embarrassment set in once I got to my car. I’d been preparing for the class for weeks and I know that it is only smart to practice for things that could go wrong during a dive. But something in my soul realized that I pushed myself too far too fast. I’m not ready for something else to go wrong. If I were to go for a dive I really believe I’d enjoy it if everything went smoothly. The thought of something going wrong, and my life (or someone else’s) being dependent on my actions and ability to problem solve quickly and calmly…that’s a big NOPE…at least right now anyway. And that’s the weird thing about grief. Months later you think you’re holding it together and doing okay and the next moment your running out of a scary situation and crying in your car (which has become a safe, judgement-free zone). 

It’s highly likely that I overreacted, but I have limits. I’m the kid who breaks her leg on the trampoline, the girl who breaks her wrist and tailbone ice skating for the first time. The young lady who has skin cancer for the first time at 24. The woman who’s pregnancy results in a loss and possible cancer diagnosis. So maybe I did overreact in the moment, but I’ve decided to not complete the course. I’m frustrated that I feel this way and can’t just make it through the simple skills, but I’m proud of myself to be able to say I am too fragile. 

I’ve met a friend through this grieving process, and though I’ve never met her in person she’s become a wonderful source of comfort and quiet strength. She grew up here in the US but has been living on the other side of the world in a Southeast Asian nation. Somehow our worlds collided when we both lost our babies and had our D&C procedures done the same week. We’ve walked each other through blood tests, grief, and heartache. This stranger turned friend has become a beacon of light for me.

Coincidentally this friend had mailed me a package back in May. Due to some vandalism at our community mailboxes, the package was held at the local post office. I picked it up on Friday and noticed the warnings that the contents of the package were fragile. I carefully unwrapped it, and revealed a beautiful hand blown glass vase. With it, a lovely letter explaining the history of the vase. It was made at the Nagar Glass Factory, in Yangon, Myanmar by the owner who was trained by Murano glass blowers. The factory was destroyed in 2008 by Cyclone Nargis and was never rebuilt. My friend explored this factory and after some searching, she found the glass vase for me. It’s a beautiful, transparent, and shattered on the inside. Yet it survived a cyclone, almost a decade of being buried in the ground, and a month in the hands of the U.S. Postal Service.

It could not have arrived at a more perfect time. I feel broken at times, barely holding it together. One tiny nick could seemingly shatter me. Yet it hasn’t.

There are so many wonderful things to come from this storm. I’m forever thankful for the women turned friends who stood by my side as we weathered the storm together. You’re a fragile treasure I hold near to my heart. 

Time

“Water, over time, destroyed this smooth land, and made it beautiful. I’m sure the land was upset as it happened. Now, I bet it boasts. Life, over time, can carve away the life you thought you’d lead, the plans you made. But it’s busy, slowly, slowly, working.” – Jedidiah Jenkins

Today is my last blood draw. Hopefully I will get a call in a few days from my doctor saying this chapter of my life is over and I’m able to move on to the next chapter. I’m calling this a chapter in my life because it is just part of my story. A period of time that carved away the life I thought I’d lead and the plans I made.

For the last hour, I’ve been sitting in the waiting next to a mom and her infant. Hearing a baby cry and laugh makes me want to cry and laugh. It’s torture in some ways and healing in others. Everyone here assumes I’m getting a blood test because I’m pregnant. I’m sitting next to another gal getting the same test because she is pregnant. I should be pregnant. I should be a month away from holding my own crying baby in a waiting room. But in other ways, I know being forced to be around other pregnant moms and babies is what helps me heal. A few months ago this would have reduced me to tears, but today I find myself smiling when I hear that baby laugh. And even though I can feel the sadness rising in my throat, there aren’t any tears.

Closing this chapter is really bittersweet. It’s bittersweet because I’m obviously I’m ready to put some of this behind me. I want to be done with being a human pincushion. I want to be done sitting in waiting rooms, waiting for phone calls, and praying I don’t need chemotherapy. There’s a lot of waiting after a molar pregnancy.

But I’m not ready to put everything behind me. Every day pushes me farther into the future, away from the days of being pregnant. And I loved being pregnant! It’s such an amazing thing that we are able to create a life. I’m dreading my due date, because it’s a date that has been special in my heart for a long time and I’m worried the actual day won’t be special at all now, just another Tuesday. I’m trying to feel happy to be “free” from my molar pregnancy, but I feel sad making plans to do things during a time when I had thought I’d be caring for my newborn. And I’m scared to move forward. As much as I don’t want to be stuck in this place I’m scared to see what the next place holds for me.

Time is a bizarre thing. I remember back in January, they told me they thought I’d be cleared in 1-3 months before we got the molar diagnosis. Three months sounded like an eternity and I assumed my heart would be healed in that amount of time. It wasn’t. It’s been 6 months and I’m not healed. It amazes me that in 9 months we can create a human life but can’t heal our very human hearts. I can’t believe I ever thought I’d be “over it” by now…because now I know you never get over it. A mother doesn’t stop loving her child. A grieving mother never stops missing her child. It’s hard for me to call myself a mother, because my arms are empty, but I am a mother in my heart. Just like the Love You Forever book goes “as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”

Just like that, time marches on – carving a new life and new plans.

“Time is very slow for those who wait. Very fast for those who are scared. Very long for those who lament. Very short for those who celebrate. But for those who love, time is eternal.” -William Shakespeare

Every day, I can feel myself healing. When I look back a few weeks or months, I can see how wrecked I was spiritually and emotionally then – even though at that point I thought I was doing okay. Though I don’t consider (or ever expect) myself to be back to “normal,” I do feel better.

The reason a woman will never feel normal again after losing her child is because her heart will be broken over and over again. The future she expected is forever altered. A piece of her is forever missing. Certain dates and holidays will fill her with dread for weeks or months. Pregnancy and birth announcements, even though they bring happiness, also stir up sad feelings. Wondering why getting and staying pregnant is so easy for some people. Wondering why babies are born to mothers who don’t want to or are unable to care for them. Wondering if you’ll ever have a baby to hold in your arms.

There is a long list of “triggers” for mothers who have lost their babies. But one of the worst is hearing of another loss. My heart breaks all over again for a woman who has lost her first child. Knowing how much pain she is in and how that loss will forever change how she feels about future pregnancies. My heart breaks hard for the woman who has had multiple losses, for she’s no stranger to the unimaginable pain that has wrecked me. Doubt overshadows her hope on a regular basis, yet she still holds onto hope.

I’ve never been more aware of my heart than I am now, because it’s breaking. It breaks every day for my baby and for yours.

“Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.” ― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Gloria

Two summers ago, your daddy came home excited with a huge smile on his face. “I know what we should name our first baby, I just heard a song on the radio that gave me the idea!” My mind was racing, trying to figure out what song he was talking about. He said he’d heard the U2 song “Gloria” on his way home and couldn’t think of a better name for our first baby. I agreed that I loved the name and it stuck. Even before you were conceived, your sweet name was on our lips and in our hearts.

At our wedding, we had two versions of “Gloria” in our playlist – the one by U2 and also the oldies song by Them. We’ve spent 2 years singing your name and smiling!

I remember back in junior high in choir we sang the song “Gloria in excelsis Deo” in Latin. Later, in high school, I took Latin classes and learned the translation for the song which I’ve included below. Turns out, you’ve been on my lips and in my heart for years and years. I can’t think of a sweeter, more perfect name for my angel!

Every day I give God thanks for His great glory. Every day I thank him for giving me YOU – my sweet Gloria! G-L-O-R-I-A!


Gloria in excelsis Deo et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Laudamus te, benedicimus te, adoramus te, glorificamus te, gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam, Domine Deus, Rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens. Domine Fili unigenite, Iesu Christe, Domine Deus, Agnus Dei, Filius Patris, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis; qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram. Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis. Quoniam tu solus Sanctus, tu solus Dominus, tu solus Altissimus, Iesu Christe, cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris. Amen

Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to men of good will. We praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we glorify You, we give You thanks for Your great glory. Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.  Lord Jesus Christ, only begotten Son, Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Receive our prayer.  You who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For You alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, You alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Lyrics to “Gloria” by U2

I try to sing this song
I, I try to stand up
But I can’t find my feet
I try, I try to speak up
But only in you I’m complete

Gloria in te domine
Gloria exultate
Gloria, Gloria
Oh Lord, loosen my lips

I try to sing this song
I, I try to get in
But I can’t find the door
The door is open
You’re standing there
You let me in

Gloria in te domine
Gloria exultate
Oh Lord, if I had anything
Anything at all
I’d give it to you
I’d give it to you

Gloria, Gloria

 

Daddy

One of the biggest perks of meeting someone who has children from a previous relationship is that you immediately get to find out what kind of a parent they are. There’s no guessing or surprises in that department! It was easy to fall in love with Bill after seeing what an amazing dad he is.

The love that he shows his kids on a daily basis is what made me sure I wanted to have a baby with him. The thing I looked forward to the most was seeing how Bill would love our baby. When he looks at his kids, I swear I can see him beaming with pride. His face softens and a sweet grin curls up the corners of his lips. When we watch movies as a family, I look over and find him running his fingers through their hair and sweetly smiling at them without them even realizing he’s not watching the movie. It melts my heart.

Bill is a hands on kind of dad. He makes breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. He totes kids to school,  practices, and doctor’s appointments. He’s gentle, patient, and understanding. He’s funny, lighthearted, and careful to use kind words. I’m lucky that all of those qualities also apply to me. Just this morning, I got up to get ready for work and he got out of bed on his day off to make me breakfast before I left the house. When I was pregnant, he used to tell me “bye” and that he loved us. He went prenatal appointments with me. Some people say that men don’t become a dad until they hold their baby in their arms, but Bill is the exception to that. He was a good daddy to our baby before the test strip turned pink.

In the last 5 months, I’ve learned that we grieve differently. Bill made sure our house kept running at the same speed when I wasn’t even able to crawl out of bed on my own. Food appeared in front of me even though I insisted I didn’t want to eat. He’s the rock in our family. Every day, I strive to be a little more like him or at least a person worthy of his love.

While I’ve had my doubts about being a good mom, but there’s never been a doubt in my mind that our baby has the best dad. There have been so many moments when I wished our baby could have lived instead of me because I have no doubt that all they would ever need is their daddy. I could see the love for our baby in his face the morning they wheeled me back into surgery. He squeezed my hand and big silent tears ran down his cheeks.

In that moment I realized…”I never knew how much I loved your daddy until I saw how much he loved you.”

Happy (early) Father’s Day to one AMAZING daddy!!! We love you!!

Chasing Rainbows

I got my results back – my second monthly test was still negative! Woohoo!!! This means I only have one more test at the beginning of July and if that is still negative, then I’m free!

We are on a family vacation at the beach this week, and it’s been amazing to escape reality for a bit. I’ve been mostly “unplugged” and it’s felt so nice to reset and enjoy being with family and the beautiful ocean.

One day, I volunteered to be buried in sand by my sweet nieces. We all laughed at how fun it was to make a mess and know the ocean could just wash away all the muddy sand. As they were covering me in sand, my youngest niece asked “Aunt Ter-Bear, why did you miscarry your baby?” I flashed back to the first time I ever heard of a miscarriage. I still remember vivid details about that moment, because it seemed like the saddest thing that could ever happen. I looked at her sweet, curious face and hated that at her young age she has to find a way to understand what a miscarriage entails. I told her I really wanted the baby, and it made me sad to lose it. But making a baby is like baking a cake, you have to have the right amount of all the ingredients. My baby didn’t have the right ingredients, and it didn’t work out this time.

It amazes me how perfect things have to be for a life to exist. It makes me feel hopeful, especially when I see a tiny crab crawling across the sand, a dolphin jumping out of the waves, or a beautiful rainbow after a day of rain. Life finds a way, and that’s such a beautiful thing. 

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