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

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas #loveforclara

Random Acts of Kindness #loveforclara

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation seeks to inspire people to practice kindness and to pass it on to others. That sounds just wonderful to me. That’s what the Christmas season is all about, to me.

I believe that you can (and should) perform Random Acts of Kindness at any time (all the time), for any reason (or no reason at all). Each action will make you feel great, spreading good cheer and happiness to those around you.

For my family, we are choosing to consciously do as many kind things for others as we can this season, in honor of our baby girl Clara, who was born still on July 1, 2012. We have a few ideas up our sleeves for commemorating Clara, but the first one is Random Kindness for Clara.

Throughout the month of December, my family and I will be recording our random acts of kindness. I challenge you to go out and do as many good and kind things as you can — post in the comments and tell me what you and your family have done! If you share on Twitter, use hashtag #loveforclara!

Here are just a few of the many wonderful random acts of kindness ideas for spreading goodness to strangers that we came up with… with a little help from Pinterest and a lot of help from my daughters’ imaginations!

Random Acts of Kindness Ideas

  1. Leave lottery tickets on random windshields in a parking lot.
  2. Leave an extra large tip for your restaurant server, along with a note of holiday cheer.
  3. Take a plate of homemade cookies or muffins to your local fire station.
  4. Take hot chocolate and cookies to your local librarians.
  5. Leave holiday cards for your postal workers, garbage men, etc.
  6. Pay for the groceries of the person in line behind you.
  7. Visit an assisted living facility or nursing home and spend some time visiting with the elderly. They have amazing stories, and many of them don’t have family who live close enough to visit regularly. Take holiday cards to hand out!
  8. Tape quarters to a vending machine in the hospital waiting room.
  9. Send a big plate of cookies for the teacher’s lounge at your child’s school.
  10. Go through your pantry and donate any “extras” to your local food bank.
  11. Hide single dollar bills in the toy section at a dollar store… and in the children’s section of the library!
  12. Send handwritten notes to your loved ones that live far away.
  13. Pick up trash from around your neighborhood.
  14. Donate diapers, wipes and formula to your local women’s shelter.
  15. Purchase $5 gift cards for Starbucks, Applebee’s or Target {or anywhere, pick your favorite store}, and hand them out to strangers.
  16. Smile at those around you. You don’t know what anyone else is going through and your smile might be the most important thing that they see today.
  17. Help a neighbor carry their groceries inside.
  18. Put shopping carts away for your fellow shoppers.
  19. Hold the door for others.
  20. Say thank you every chance you get!
  21. Hug your friends and tell them how much they mean to you.
  22. Give a flower to somebody special.
  23. Offer a genuine compliment to a stranger.
  24. Take flowers or get well balloons to the hospital to distribute to those who are alone.
  25. Leave a small gift by a neighbor’s doorstep.
  26. Tape candy canes to ATM machines around town.
  27. Purchase and donate a toy to “Toys for Tots”.
  28. Pay library fines for five people.
  29. Send in a box chocolates for your child’s school custodians.
  30. Volunteer to walk dogs for the Humane Society.
  31. Build a bird or squirrel feeder.
  32. Knit/crochet/sew blankets/hats/booties for babies who are in the NICU this holiday season.
  33. Buy your favorite children’s book and leave in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital.
  34. Pick a name from the phone book and mail them a two dollar bill and a happy note.
  35. Leave kid-made bookmarks in the books at the library.
  36. Have your kids make holiday cards and deliver them to the Cancer Center or Cardiac Unit of your local hospital.
  37. Donate blood and/or become an organ donor.
  38. Donate to charity: water to build wells and provide safe drinking water to people in undeveloped countries.
  39. Send a care package to any soldier in Afghanistan. Be sure to include candy and small gifts {bouncy balls, bubbles} — my brother would hand these out to children while on patrol.
  40. Prepare and serve lunch at your local homeless shelter.
  41. Assemble care packages for homeless adults in your area.
  42. Plant a tree! Mother Earth deserves kindness, too!
  43. Take popcorn and sweet treats to the Labor & Delivery nurses at your local hospital.
  44. Same as above… but for the wonderful nurses in the NICU!
  45. Make paint chip Christmas trees — great for bookmarks or ornaments to give to loved ones.
  46. Cook a meal for an elderly neighbor or friend.
  47. Offer someone a piece of gum or candy.
  48. Go through your books and donate extras to a women’s shelter or school library.
  49. Buy and decorate a Christmas tree for a family that cannot afford their own this year.
  50. Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home or assisted living facility.
  51. Write a love note to your partner and slip it into their wallet/purse before they leave for work.
  52. Be a coupon fairy at the grocery store.
  53. Write a sweet love note for your kids and put it in their backpack or lunch bag before school.
  54. Leave a note for a manager about a particularly kind and friendly employee.
  55. Pay for another family’s or couple’s meal at a restaurant.
  56. Be a kind and conscientious driver.
  57. Take crayons and coloring books to local doctor’s offices.
  58. Feed a parking meter that has expired (or is about to).
  59. Leave a flower or holiday note on someone’s windshield.
  60. Leave all of your change in the change jar at a register.
  61. Babysit for a single parent in your life, just so they can have some time alone.
  62. Tape quarters to bubble gum machines!
  63. Ring the bell for the Salvation Army representative at the mall.
  64. Help someone whose car has broken down.
  65. Praise a parent for their child’s good behavior.
  66. Clean graffiti in your neighborhood.
  67. Sweep your neighbor’s front porch or walkway.
  68. Let someone get in line in front of you.
  69. Strike up a conversation with a stranger.
  70. Write a letter to someone who made a difference in your life.
  71. Read to a child.
  72. Shovel snow for a neighbor.
  73. Be kind to someone you dislike.
  74. Donate $1 when asked to do so in the grocery store.
  75. Donate used clothing and toys to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.
  76. Hand out lollipops to strangers. Decorate it with a holiday wish for their happiness.
  77. Tell your parents you love and appreciate them.
  78. Give someone a hug.
  79. Complain less.
  80. Make a positive comment on a blog.
  81. Take the time to email someone to tell them that their blog has touched you in some way.
  82. Put gas in someone’s car.
  83. Help someone move.
  84. Encourage your child to write a positive note to a classmate.
  85. Focus on the positive by sharing a positive blog post on Twitter & Facebook.
  86. Knit a scarf for someone who needs one.
  87. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to help build a house for someone.
  88. Invite someone over for a holiday meal with your family.
  89. Send holiday cards to loved ones, near and far.
  90. Take treats for your coworkers and boss.
  91. Leave random change on the playground and watch kids’ delight as they find it.
  92. Place flowers on the grave of a stranger who has none.
  93. Make a list of the things you appreciate about your partner.
  94. Help others whenever possible.
  95. Ask someone about their holiday traditions.
  96. Start a piggy bank for a cause.
  97. Measure your carbon footprint and try to reduce it.
  98. Give directions to someone who is lost.
  99. Tell a parent that they are doing a great job.
  100. Be a shoulder to cry on for a friend (or a stranger).
Quite a bit of our family’s Random Kindness for Clara will be centered on NICU babies, the wonderful nurses at the hospital where Clara was born, and through our local infant loss support group.

We will be including these little cards with our acts of kindness, to honor those that we know who have also been touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. You are welcome (and encouraged!) to download and print them for your own use.

Random Kindness for Clara
Click to download a PDF of this Random Kindness for Clara tag!

You may choose a different focus for your random acts of kindness… or no focus at all except to be a kind person. Either of those, or any variation thereof, sounds wonderful to me. Go forth… and be kind. Then come back and tell me about it… or share on Twitter using hashtag #loveforclara. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”
~ Aesop ~

Remembering Our Baby This Christmas

It has been two days since I last posted, and I have to say, it was a welcome break from the frantic posting schedule of November’s NaBloPoMo. I am still fighting the remnants of bronchitis and hoping to see the last of it very soon.

It is obvious to us that we’re going to have a rough few weeks coming up… it’s already hard. We should be celebrating our five month old baby’s milestones — sitting up, rolling over from back to tummy, grinning and teething — and instead we’re wandering around like sad, lost zombies, trying to find meaning in the gloom.

David, Lakin, Addah and I have been talking a lot about how to honor our little Clara during this Christmas season. We don’t want to let our grief completely surround us, so that we miss out on opportunities to celebrate how special our baby girl is to us.

The girls have had wonderful ideas — and our favorite is Random Kindness for Clara, which will we introduce tomorrow on the blog. We’ve been making a list and plan to implement as many of these as possible this holiday season.

We invite you to participate in Random Kindness for Clara, in honor of those touched by miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss. Check back tomorrow for more information!

Share My Vantage Point

Last night, I saw a postdates mama (41 weeks pregnant) advised to “turn off the part of the brain that is telling you something is wrong”. This is a perfect example of why I feel strongly that the culture of a “perfect birth” can be very dangerous.

I didn’t see it until I had lived through it, and my baby hadn’t.

A vaginal birth is a beautiful thing. A healthy baby is so much more beautiful.

For the fortunate who have had both, it can be hard (almost impossible, it seems) to see that it is not right, healthy or ethical to push a woman to have her baby naturally, no matter what.

It’s not that simple for every woman, because every woman and every baby is different.

If you only know a person online, you are not qualified to give them medical advice. Too many pregnant women (myself, included) get stuck in the thought process that “they did it, so I can too”.

Maybe you can. Maybe you can’t.

You can’t know that you should have done things differently until it is too late, and no one else should have to go through what our family is going through now.

I did not want a third c-section. I wanted a vaginal birth after cesarean very badly.

Right now, five months after our daughter was born still, I can tell you, without the slightest doubt in my mind, that I would endure a cesarean section every day this week if I could just have my baby back in my arms, alive and healthy.

Read what I have written. Learn from my mistakes and loss.

Click through and share “The Vantage Point of Hindsight” with anyone you know who is pregnant.

Share it for Clara.

Capturing My Grief

This October, I am joining the “Capture Your Grief” photography project, hosted by Carly Marie. This project honors Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

This is an opportunity for those of us who have suffered the loss of a baby to document our grief and our healing for a month and to share it with the world through our own eyes.

You can follow my daily updates on my “Capture Your Grief” project page or on my facebook page.

Thank you for joining me as I honor our sweet Clara in pictures this month.

In Memoriam – Our Baby’s Memorial Service

This afternoon is the day of our daughter Clara’s memorial service. We placed her headstone yesterday, and today we will all gather to remember and honor her. I am dreading this, because it seems so final, even more so than her cremation did. We have debated whether or not we will scatter her ashes at this memorial service, and the end decision is that we’re just not ready. I like having her ashes here, on the bookshelf by our bed, next to her picture, her footprints, and the statue that David bought for me on the day she was born.

Our daughter would be 11 weeks old today. She would be smiling, trying her hardest to flip from back to tummy, making sweet little noises and blowing bubbles at us. Maybe she would be fussy, cutting her first teeth and wanting to nurse around the clock, gearing up for a growth spurt. I wonder which of her sisters she would be most like. I know they would be in love with her, doting big sisters who adore her, because I’ve seen how excellent they are at taking care of their little cousins.

I would give anything for a chance to have our daughter alive today, right now, keeping me awake at 3 in the morning or fast asleep, curled into her daddy’s arm. I would give anything to have seen the sparkle in her eyes, so that I could hold that in my heart forever.

Please think of us — myself, David, Lakin, Addah and Clara — this afternoon. Honor her by remembering that she was here and that she touched our lives in amazing ways. Light a candle, whisper a prayer, think a loving thought, and hug your children and loved ones closer today.