Still Standing {International Bereaved Mother’s Day}

I am still standing, though the ground feels very shaky at times, and putting one foot in front of the other is more than I can manage on some days.

I am still standing, while a part of my heart is held forever in a ceramic and copper urn on my bedroom shelf.

I am still standing, while I am selling the cloth diapers that I lovingly purchased for my stillborn daughter, because I need rent money more than a box of diapers that I may never use, and it feels like it’s ripping a hole in the already fraying fabric of the peace I have managed to gather close to me.

I am still standing, while our excitement over a positive pregnancy test turns into that familiar ache of cramping and blood that means we will not be adding another child to our home in 2013.

I am still standing, though this is the first year since I became a mama in 2001 that I have not thought of Mother’s Day with joy and happiness. Instead, I feel sad, and a little lost, and more than a little guilty for feeling this way. I keep asking myself if I have the right to be sad, even though I believe that I have earned that right, and that it does not diminish my gratitude and love for my older children.

I am still standing, because I have two beautiful daughters here who will shower me with handmade cards and hugs and love. I know that I am so lucky to have them, the loves of my life.

I am still standing, but I miss my baby, more than words can say.

It has been 10 months since my youngest daughter died, but I am still standing.

Mothers Day CarlyMarie

Sunday May 5th is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. This is a day to honor the mothers who are not able to celebrate with one or more of their children, but still deserve to be honored. Let’s #BreaktheSilence

For more about International Bereaved Mother’s Day, please be sure to visit the CarlyMarie Project.

To honor the bereaved mothers, including myself, several bloggers have joined together to host a linkup. We encourage anyone who has suffered a loss of a baby or a child to link your story. Share your grief. Or how you have healed. You can share successes and how you have moved on or dealt with your loss. It can be an old post or a new post, or several posts if you have more than one you’d like to contribute.

This is our opportunity to share what is on our hearts. Our day to share with other mothers who understand and for those who may not have experienced this to read a little more into our hearts. #BreaktheSilence

Please be sure to visit the co-hosts!

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Beautiful Mothers
The link-up has {unfortunately} expired and can no longer be viewed. Thank you to those who linked up… your stories are beautiful!

My Daughters’ Names

What’s in a name?

Choosing my daughters’ names was not a task that I took lightly. We made many lists, and considered ancestry, word origins & the meanings of different names. First names have to flow properly and sound right with the middle and last names. There’s so much to consider, because you are not really naming a baby, you are naming an adult. I feel that any name must work for whatever profession my child chooses to pursue , whether that be writer, teacher, lawyer or President of the United States.

My oldest daughter is Lakin Leigh. Lakin is my middle name, and my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Leigh is the more feminine spelling of her father’s middle name, Lee. It flows beautifully with our last name. Her name was decided before we knew she was a girl, before we were even pregnant. Her name suits her perfectly.

Lakin Leigh

If she had been a boy, the name we had chosen was Andrew Patrick. I loved this name at the time, so much so that we considered it again when pregnant with our second child. Ultimately, I can’t picture myself as the mother of an Andrew or a Patrick, though I’m sure I would still be in love with the name if my oldest had been a boy child. Funny how that works, eh?

My second daughter is Addah Shannon. I had loved the name Addah since high school, when I had a brief friendship with a beautiful blond girl by that name. Her middle name is from the River Shannon in Ireland, and goes well with our very Irish last name. As it turns out, “Ada” is a family name, though I did not know that when we chose the name. I realized pretty quickly after Addah was born that we would forever be correcting the spelling and pronunciation of her name, but it never seems to bother her. The English meaning of Addah/Ada is “happy” and the Irish meaning of Shannon is “little old wise one”. My Addah is indeed a very happy and wise child, just as her name suggests.

Addah Shannon

Unlike our first pregnancy, on the second time around, we did not find out whether we were having a boy or girl via ultrasound. If Addah had been a boy, which I was absolutely convinced of until she was born, the name we had chosen was Rory Patrick. I still love this name, though it didn’t feel right anymore by the time we were pregnant with our last baby. Different husband, different place in my life, but still, a lovely boy’s name.

David and I considered hundreds of names for our third baby before we settled on Clara Edith. Clara means “clear, bright, famous” and Edith means “prosperous in war”. We had five early miscarriages before we conceived Clara, and we were in a very dark time financially when we became pregnant with her. She was the symbol of our clear and bright future, and we felt very prosperous in love, even during the war we were waging on our financial circumstances. Clara is a lovely old-fashioned name, and not one that you hear very often, which is exactly what we were looking for. Edith was my paternal grandmother’s first name, which makes the name even more special to us. It is the perfect name for this beautiful child.

Clara Edith (photo by Carly Marie Project Heal)

We had a perfect boy name picked out as well, in case Clara had been a boy. It is still our favorite boy name, and we hope that we will one day be able to bestow it on a son, so it shall remain private for now.

I adore all of my daughters’ names, and wouldn’t change them for the world. I think their names suit them perfectly, and I can’t imagine them being called by any other name.

How did you decide on your children’s names? Are they named after family members, friends, or famous people? Do you prefer classic or unusual names?

Random Struggles

This week is filled with random struggles. The beginning of the month is always hard, as I am consumed with thoughts of how old Clara would be (8 months now), what she would be doing (crawling? standing? saying “dada”?) and images of what she might have looked like by now. Then I have to go look at my photo albums so I can remember what Lakin and Addah looked like at 8 months old. It’s a special kind of torment.

By mid-month, I’ve usually pulled it together some and I can get things done as they come up, cross things off the to-do list, but as the end of the month approaches, I start thinking about how it’s almost the beginning of the month, almost the 1st, almost another entire month that she would be older now. And it starts all over again, the ugly cycle.

I can’t imagine that there might be a day when I won’t know precisely how old my third daughter would have been, if she had lived. Will I still be tormenting myself when she would have been 3 years old, 10 years old, 17 years old, 30 years old? Yes, I probably will.

Random Struggles - My older girls at 8 months
Lakin and Addah at 8 months old

My oldest little brother and his wife are due with their second baby this coming Saturday. They found out they were pregnant on the day that Clara died. I am very happy for them, but I am a nervous wreck as their due date inches closer. I refuse to entertain any thoughts of bad things happening, though they bump around in my mind against my will. I am eager for the phone call that tells me that my new nephew is here, safe in his mama’s arms, nursing happily while his proud daddy and big sister look on.

I feel like I have more to say, but the words aren’t coming this morning. I feel like this litany of my random struggles is too disorganized to even be published, but it’s the best I’ve got for you today.

I’m linking up several places today for Wordful/Wordless Wednesday…

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Fresh Mommy Blog parenting BY dummies
Wordless Wednesday by David Good Girl Gone Wife 5 Minutes for Mom

Playing The Blame Game

I have become an old pro at playing the blame game in the last eight months since my baby girl was stillborn.

I’ve blamed almost everyone at one point or another.

I have blamed the {well-meaning and compassionate} women in my various natural birthing groups. Why did they encourage me to go past 40 weeks of pregnancy? Why did they have to be so supportive that I felt like I would be a failure if I gave in and had a c-section without a real reason?

Why did they tell me about all the women who went to 42/43/44 weeks and still delivered their healthy babies at home, into the arms of their mamas and daddies and siblings? Why did I believe it was okay to make life and death choices based on other people’s anecdotes?

Why did I assume that just because it happened that way for them, that it would happen that way for me? Why couldn’t it have worked that way for me, when it worked that way for everyone else?

I have blamed the doctor who insisted that I must have a scheduled c-section at 36 weeks, and who asked me to find another doctor when I declined to appear for that scheduled c-section. I have blamed the doctor who mangled my uterus in 2002, leaving me with horizontal, vertical and diagonal incisions, which lead to years of secondary infertility.

I have blamed no one more than myself. I made the decision to decline that scheduled c-section. I still believe a preemptive c-section at 36 weeks is ridiculous, but if I’d followed doctor’s orders, my daughter would most likely be here today. I made the decision to stay pregnant past 40 weeks, past 41 weeks, past 42 weeks. I had a six week window in which my child could have been born and been fine, and I threw myself from that window.

I used to believe that I was strong. In all honesty, if Clara had been born healthy and vaginally after 42 weeks 3 days gestation, I would probably have been obnoxiously crowing with delight and pride in my supreme womanhood. I might be one of those natural birth mamas who tells all the newcomers to the group that I went to 42 and a half weeks, implying that if I can do it, so can you. I might scoff sweetly at women who have been enduring prodromal labor for a month, telling them that I went through extended labor for six weeks. Even if I had delivered a healthy baby via c-section, I might still shake my head at women who complain that they are 40 weeks and ready to have a baby now, darn it… thinking to myself that I’m superior to them because I held out for so much longer before I succumbed to a surgical birth.

I can tell you right now that I am not superior to anyone. I allowed fear and pride and other people’s opinions to color my judgement, and it is the single biggest regret of my life. I have tried to make up for it, by giving an alternate viewpoint to the “you can do it if you just believe in yourself” stance on natural birth and postdates pregnancy, and I like to think that maybe it will make a difference in someone else’s birth choices, but it doesn’t make up for what my family has lost.

Friends, family, fellow loss mamas, the doctor who stepped in and showed compassion after Dr. 36 Weeks walked away, my best friend, my dear husband… they’ve all told me that it’s not my fault, that I made the best decisions I could with the information I had, that I couldn’t have known, that it is not my fault my daughter died.

I don’t believe it, not for a second. I wish I did, but no matter which way I replay the whole scenario in my head, I come back to knowing that if I had made better decisions, I’d have my third daughter here today.

I am nearly eight months in, and I am endlessly playing the blame game, always coming up the loser.

Playing the Blame Game

A Balloon for Clara {Wordful Wednesday}

It’s another Wordful Wednesday!

Last weekend, we released a balloon into the early morning sky for Clara’s 7 month birthday. We stood and watched it gusting in the breeze, rising higher and higher until it drifted out of sight.

Releasing a balloon for Clara's 7 month birthday - Wordful Wednesday

I’m linking up several places today for Wordful/Wordless Wednesday!

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A Country Day Trip

A Country Day Trip

I spent Saturday on a country day trip, visiting some of my favorite places with some of my favorite people. David, Lakin, Addah and I, along with David’s mom, Jean, drove through the country to my grandparents’ property, the foot of Glassy Mountain, to take fresh flowers for Clara’s memorial stone. It has been several months since we had the gas money to travel that far from home, and we were grateful to finally be able to visit her stone.

It is not yet Clara’s final resting spot, as we (mostly I) have been unable to “let go” enough to spread her ashes there, but it soon will be. I am trying to prepare myself for the finality of {maybe} spreading her ashes, on what would have been her first birthday, {possibly} this July 1st. In the meantime, I keep her ashes close, but we visit her gravestone as often as we can.

Today we took a bouquet of fresh daisies, pink alstroemeria, pink roses and pink berries, gathered in a pink mason jar. We watered the thick green moss that is spreading around the stone, and Lakin placed a single pink camelia on the moss. We scattered wildflower seeds between her stone and the tree line, out of the way of the inevitable lawnmower, but still in the bright sunshine.

A Country Day Trip

Afterward, we traveled on a bit further, stopping for generous portions of hand-scooped ice cream at a group of lovely little roadside shops that have been around since I was a kid – Aunt Sue’s Country Corner. We spent some time poking around in the shops that were open — and the girls managed to get Mama Jean to open her pocketbook for a couple of bead necklaces — before heading back toward home for a delicious meal of spicy Mexican food.

It was a beautiful sunny day, full of laughter and the joking sarcasm of my funny family. It was a much-needed step away from our typical day to day routine, and I’m already looking forward to our next day trip.