What Not to Say

It’s a rainy day here in Maine. It’s also the only day this week that I don’t have something going on. So I’m hanging out in my jammies, doing laundry and watching movies with my little guy while I sit on a tennis ball. (It’s supposed to massage your muscles. So far it just hurts.) I picked up my Kindle while re-watching Wreck-It Ralph for the second time in 2 days to browse my Facebook newsfeed. And I saw a post of a friend of a friend who was letting everyone know that she had just lost her baby.

I clicked on her status post and read each of the 50+ comments written there. I can’t explain why, but maybe it was some morbid need to see what her loved ones had to say about this devastating moment in her life. And then I got upset for her. Because some people just say the absolute wrong things. You can’t blame these women either, because they haven’t gone through the experience. They are trying to be loving and supportive. But they still say things that can almost demean what their friend is going through.

So if you have a friend who has recently experienced a miscarriage, these are, in my opinion, some things NOT to say:

You already have 2 beautiful children. This may be true, but it isn’t comforting. I don’t care how many children a woman has, she will still deeply mourn the baby she has lost. A friend shared with me that her husband’s grandmother had 14 children and had one miscarriage. Only a couple of years ago that grandmother shared that she still hadn’t gotten over the loss of that one child. She still mourned some 50+ years later. And what about the women who miscarry that don’t have any children? Does that mean they are entitled to feel more grief? Grief is grief, whether other people think we’re entitled to it or not. Please don’t try to demean the depth of a woman’s grief by reminding her she already has other children. Because for me, it made me feel like I was being told that I shouldn’t be too upset about my loss because I had already attained the ultimate goal of a woman: I had already experienced motherhood. It made me feel guilty that I had children when some women couldn’t and I should get over my grief more quickly so as not to possibly offend the women miscarrying who didn’t have any children yet.

Everything happens for a reason. This is a tough one. Partly because I believed it when I kept losing baby after baby. I wanted to believe there was a reason. I had to believe there was a reason. And I couldn’t figure out what that reason could possibly be. I became so fixated on trying to determine why I was miscarrying that I couldn’t allow myself to complete the stages of grief. I thought if I could figure it out I could fix it and get pregnant again and finally have that elusive third baby I kept wishing for. I really struggled with my faith during this. Because I kept hearing about how God has a plan for me and knows what’s right for me and blah, blah, blah. I listened to this and tried so hard to embrace it, to take comfort in that thought. I had friends and family praying for me and with me and that support really meant a lot. But I asked myself a lot of ugly questions. Like, is this some kind of message? If so, what’s the message? Am I not being a good enough mother to the kids I already have? Am I sick with some hidden illness I’m going to discover is the culprit behind my losses? Am I supposed to experience this so that I can write about it, so that I can help other women get through it too? I had my fourth miscarriage at the end of April this year. I was still grieving my other three and was so overwhelmed. Then, a few months later someone said something to me that enabled me to finally let go and start to heal. She said, “We want to believe there is a reason for everything bad that happens in our life, but the reality is, sometimes things happen for no reason at all. They just happen.” And there you have it. Shit happens and it doesn’t have to mean a damn thing.

So now I’m crying for a stranger who is going through something horrible. A woman who will probably hide her grief during the day so that she doesn’t upset those 2 beautiful kids she has and who will sob into her pillow when she goes to sleep. If she were my friend, what I would say to her is this: My heart is breaking for you. I love you and am here for you if you ever need anything. Let yourself cry. Your kids will be okay.

Be there for your friend. Don’t try to say things to make her feel better. She needs to cry. She needs to get all those emotions out. Let her know she can do that with you. Give her a hug and don’t let her go right away. Make her feel loved and supported just by your presence, even if it’s just on the phone.

And now I’ll get off my soapbox and go back to sitting on my tennis ball.

The Berserker Tear-Jerker

I think I’m fighting a losing battle with the Whole 30. I’m really hating life right now and I’m only on day five. Twenty-five more days of starvation may help me drop some weight, but I don’t think its worth it. Although, if I give up so soon, I’ll feel like a failure and feel worse about myself. So the million dollar question is: do I feel bad about myself for giving up my super restrictive diet plan, or do I feel bad for the next month because I’m miserable eating food I hate and hungry (because I’d rather not eat than eat food I hate)?

Anyhoo, now that I’m done playing my tiny little violin of pity, let me get back to my Book Blogger Challenge.

Day Five: Recommend a tear-jerker.

I don’t like books that make me cry. I feel like I’ve cried enough in the last two years over things in my own life to last me a long, long time. So I don’t want my escape mechanism of reading to also make me cry. But I have read one whole tear-jerker this year that my book club (when I was still going) was reading. And I would definitely recommend it: “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See.

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I have a hard time sometimes getting into books about different cultures. Not because I don’t think different cultures are interesting, but because I can’t relate. I get angry when cultural rules or mores abuse people and suppress their natural human rights. I feel thankful that, being a woman, I live in America in the present time.

I didn’t have a hard time getting into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Probably because its about women and friendship. I think that topic might just be universal. The book is about two girls from different classes in 19th century China, one lower class, one upper class, who spend their lives building a friendship through the sharing of their emotions and thoughts. They send each other secret communications that they write on a silk fan. They find comfort in each other in a time where being a woman in China (two words: foot binding) had nothing comforting to offer.

The tear-jerker part, other than the misery of their lives, is that the women have a misunderstanding that could potentially destroy their friendship. The woman telling the story is the lower class girl, Lily, and as she is the one who damages this lifelong friendship, you really feel her heartbreak, guilt and regret as well as her love for her friend.

What I got out of it, other than the fierce desire to name a daughter Plum Blossom or Beautiful Moon, is that women need each other. We have these crazy close friendships with other women because they are essential to our emotional well-being. No one will ever truly understand what a woman is going through or has gone through like another woman. No one can prepare you for a life event like a woman who has already experienced it. Women just get what it means to be a woman. And we can support each other emotionally because of that.

Personally, the real tear-jerker part was that Snow Flower, who takes such joy from her children, keeps losing babies. She tries to communicate the anguish and despair, the life-altering sorrow of those losses to Lily, her closest friend, but Lily doesn’t understand. She hasn’t experienced it and she doesn’t know how to comfort Snow Flower. This made me bawl openly. I mean, I was crying tears the way a berserker would fight a battle. I wanted to smack the crap out of Lily because the things she said to Snow Flower to snap her out of this depression were stupid and mean. I wanted to comfort this poor fictional woman who was steeped in despair and self-loathing because I understood what she was feeling. I understand that loss. And it made me relive my own feelings about all of my lost babies. “Cry Me a River” you say, Justin Timberlake? Oh, I did. I most certainly did.

I may just go cry another one.

What’s the last book that made you cry?

100 +3 Things About Me

I love lists! Others may not, but I’m following some guidelines here. One of them says you should have a list of 100 things about yourself. Really? Do people really want to know 100 random things about me? I guess so. Since you want to know me so badly, I wrote 103 things. So there.

  1. I don’t like to be told what to do.
  2. I like folk music.
  3. I also like mainstream pop music no matter how hard my “music” friends try to get me to listen to cool stuff.
  4. I had to switch to listening to a Christian Rock radio station because my daughter started making up songs about taking her clothes off.
  5. I’m addicted to Cape Cod Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño chips.
  6. I have 2 tattoos.
  7. I want another one. A BIG one on my upper arm.
  8. I don’t think I have the courage to get a big tattoo where people can see it.
  9. My favorite color is green.
  10. I want to learn to sew.
  11. I got married in Arizona, even though I’ve never lived there.
  12. I’ve lived in MD, PA, RI, MI, OH, ME, NY, IL (for 10+ weeks), CA and CO.
  13. The 10+ weeks in IL were when I was in boot camp.
  14. I was in the Navy.
  15. I got out of the Navy earlier than my initial commitment.
  16. Not fulfilling my Naval contract is one of the only things I truly regret in my life.
  17. I love to sing really really loud in my car.
  18. I grew up always having a cat for a pet.
  19. My husband hates cats so I may never have another.
  20. My parents named me Tamara so that they could call me Tammy.
  21. I chose the pronunciation of my first name when I was 2.
  22. It’s pronounced Tam-ah-rah.
  23. I hate it when people call me Tam-air-ah.
  24. I studied Russian in an immersion program in the Navy.
  25. My Russian name was Tam-R-ah (without the hyphens. Or the “h”).
  26. I don’t always notice when people call me Tam-R-ah since that’s all anyone called me for almost 2 years.
  27. I went by the name Tammy until I was 21 and I met another girl named Tammy who I didn’t want to be confused with.
  28. I’ve been using my full name ever since.
  29. You can tell how long a person has known me by what name they call me by.
  30. My eyes look blue in pictures, but they are really a blue-green hazel color.
  31. I say my eyes are blue on my driver’s license. Or any other form that asks my eye color.
  32. My husband’s eyes are brown, so I thought I would have brown eyed brunettes when I had kids.
  33. I didn’t. I had one blue eyed blonde and one hazel eyed brunette.
  34. I grew up always wanting 2 kids.
  35. Then when I was about 24, I decided I was too selfish for kids.
  36. I watched my friend give birth when I was 26 and decided maybe I did want kids after all.
  37. I had my first baby at the age of 32.
  38. I had my second baby at the age of 34.
  39. After my second baby, I wanted more kids. Maybe 2 more.
  40. I tried for almost 2 years to have my third baby.
  41. I had 4 miscarriages in a row.
  42. After that I decided that I was going to stop trying.
  43. After being checked by a fertility specialist to make sure I didn’t have any underlying health problems (I didn’t) he told me his theory was that my eggs were deteriorating.
  44. I’m 37 and my eggs are bad.
  45. This makes me simultaneously defensive (of my poor eggs) and sad (my poor eggs!).
  46. I met my husband in my Russian class when I was in the Navy. (He was Army.)
  47. No one in our class of 40 knew we were dating for almost 2 months.
  48. I dated my husband for 6 months before he asked me to marry him.
  49. We got married 5 months later.
  50. I have been married for 8 years.
  51. My husband, Mike, is my best friend.
  52. He is also still smoking hot and has the best butt I’ve seen yet.
  53. I used to work as a graphic designer.
  54. I drove the people I worked with crazy by making them play 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon with me while we designed ads.
  55. I get bored pretty easily.
  56. I’m a natural strawberry blonde.
  57. I’m 5’9″ and wish I were about 5’5″.
  58. I hope my daughter doesn’t grow to be as tall as me.
  59. My first job was having a paper route when I was 12.
  60. Then I bussed tables at a Country Buffet Restaurant when I was 16.
  61. Then worked at Wendy’s, Arby’s and a movie theater’s concession stand. In that order.
  62. I went to Hofstra University.
  63. I am still in touch with a lot of the friends I made in college.
  64. I met most of them my freshman year.
  65. I truly love my friends and would do anything for them.
  66. I studied Publishing so I could become a Book Editor and read books all day for a living.
  67. I discovered its a lot harder than that and it’s kind of boring.
  68. Instead, I went into the Publishing Industry working in Print Production.
  69. I interned at US Weekly when they were still just US Magazine.
  70. It wasn’t very cool.
  71. It taught me how to fix copy machines.
  72. One of my favorite books growing up was A Wrinkle In Time.
  73. I read so much now that I don’t know if I could pick a favorite book.
  74. I mostly read Science Fiction and Fantasy Young Adult Fiction. And Romance. Occasionally, I’ll throw a classic or serious literary fiction into the mix.
  75. I’m writing a novel – YA Fiction. I’m planning a trilogy.
  76. I daydream about becoming the next Stephenie Meyer (There are no vampires in my books, btw).
  77. I’ve already Pinned pictures of the house I’m going to build when I’m a zillionaire.
  78. I’m addicted to Pinterest.
  79. I tried to teach myself how to play the acoustic guitar, but it took too long for my fingers to callus and I got bored with it.
  80. I played the flute for 6 years.
  81. I downloaded Peter, Paul and Mary’s Greatest Hits to burn a copy for my mom for Christmas, but I really did it so I could listen to it. (Shhhh… don’t tell anyone!)
  82. My favorite Billy Joel song is in french and I still don’t know what the hell he’s saying.
  83. I used to play the song over and over again on my mom’s record player when I was a tween.
  84. Yes, I remember record players. And Eight Tracks.
  85. I cry very easily.
  86. I hate trying on clothes because I’m not a fan of my body.
  87. I’m overweight.
  88. If I had a wish from a genie, it would be to make me love to exercise and eat vegetables.
  89. I don’t like to exercise or eat vegetables.
  90. I hate sweating or being too hot.
  91. I force myself to eat vegetables.
  92. I’m gifted with the ability of spatial recognition. So if I’m at a store and I’m looking for a piece of furniture, I can eyeball it and know whether it will fit in the space I want to put it in.
  93. I like puzzles.
  94. I suffer from depression and anxiety.
  95. Sometimes my anxiety makes me uncomfortable leaving my house.
  96. I love Xanax.
  97. I need alone time to recharge.
  98. My favorite season is autumn.
  99. I always sleep best when its raining.
  100. I hate big government.
  101. I can easily pass up desserts like donuts, cake, brownies or ice cream, but chocolate candy? Never!
  102. I bite and pick at my nails. (It drives my husband crazy.)
  103. I’ve written 103 things about myself, but still feel like you couldn’t possibly know me just from reading this.

Books and Loss and Faith

I have been doing a lot of reading. Most of the stuff I read is purely for entertainment with a few informative non-fiction books thrown in that are almost always about parenting or healthy eating or both. I also belong to a book club, so I get my fix of the literary fiction that I find both beautiful and, lately, too emotionally charged. A friend on Facebook (of all places!) posted a link to an e-book she was going to be reading where the authors would also be conducting a weekly book club discussion of each chapter. So I have been reading this amazing book, Hope For The Weary Mom: Where God Meets you in Your Mess for the last few weeks. I finished it early just because I needed the support of the authors’ words and the hope offered in the title.

The chapter they are discussing this week is about loss. It is crazy how easy it is to access such raw emotion. Always the deep thinker, I have been doing a lot of “feeling” with my intellect rather than my heart. I tell myself all the right things to help soothe the turbulence that has taken up residence inside of me. I have relied on prayer and positive thinking and distraction to try and give myself time to scab over that raw place on my heart. But reading about another woman’s loss and her struggle with her emotions, her faith, just ripped me open again. Since writing about my own losses, I have had so many women in my life come forward and share their own story of loss. It amazes me how much we, as women, hide of ourselves. We hide our pain. We hide our worries. Sometimes we even hide our faith.

I have always believed in God. I grew up going to church as a child and learning about God in Sunday school. The churches I attended with my family were traditional, conservative churches where you sat, quietly, and listened and worshiped, quietly. My parents never really discussed their religious beliefs and I don’t remember talking openly about God. I knew they believed, but it was something personal that we didn’t talk about. My belief was strong, but personal. This is the first time I have ever spoken, or written about my own faith. A lot of that is because of judgment. I have found that people that openly discuss their faith or quote scripture seem to be judged by our society as close-minded fanatics bent on stopping the positive progression of society. This is not my own belief and I am neither close-minded, nor a fanatic trying to halt positive change in the world.

But I keep my most personal beliefs, thoughts and feelings close. I think most people do. One thing I did not write about back in March, when I was grieving so fiercely, was my struggle with my own faith. It is hard to have faith in a loving God when you are feeling so much pain. It is hard to say a prayer each night for the strength you need, for the hopes you have, when you feel let down. Faith is about trust. When you have faith in God and His plan for you, you are trusting in Him. You are vulnerable. You are helpless. And when bad things happen, it hurts you both emotionally and spiritually.

As I struggled with my grief and all the complex emotions that go along with the loss of a baby, I was also struggling with my faith in God. How could I turn, now, to the one who let me down? What had I done wrong? Was there some meaning in these losses that I hadn’t yet discerned? Was I not a good enough mother to my other children? Was I being greedy wanting more children when I had already been blessed with two healthy kids? Was I supposed to take this grief and use it to help other women in need? No one will ever understand God’s plan. I know this. That doesn’t mean I accept not knowing, but I understand that I will never understand the whys I keep asking myself.

After 7+ years of marriage, I have finally gotten my husband to agree to attend church with me. I have waited patiently (yes, I was patient about something for once in my entire life!) for 7 years, never pushing, never nagging, just occasionally sharing some of my spiritual beliefs with my husband. This summer, with no warning, he turned to me and asked me if I would like to check out some local churches. We checked out a church that I knew some friends attended and have been going ever since. It’s been interesting! I’ll tell you about it soon, I promise. But even though my faith seems stronger than ever, I falter. The anxious control freak inside of me struggles with trusting anyone but myself. Daily, I worry, I hope and I pray for the strength to just let go and accept that I am not always the only guide down the path of my life. I cannot always be in control. I will never be able to predict the events in my future and protect myself from them. Life is going to happen and I just have to have faith.

Hide and Seek

As a woman, or a mother, have you ever just wanted to run and hide? I’m reading a book that asked me the question: have you ever felt like just walking away? Yes. I have.

I haven’t written in a while. Partly because I didn’t have anything new to say, but mostly because I just wanted to hide for a while. Keep my mouth shut and my emotions close. My writing may have stopped, but life never did. That’s the way of a mother’s life. Things never slow down or stop moving along. Kids grow, learn new things, astound you with new abilities, make new friends, start playing sports and mom just jogs along behind, trying to keep up. Well, that’s what I’ve been doing, jogging along trying to keep up and letting that run fill up all my days and thoughts.

It’s a new year and I’m hoping for a new beginning, both for me and my writing. My family has some new things going on. We have become a gluten free household after discovering a gluten sensitivity last year. And we have started going to church as a family. This may not sound like much, but I feel like they are huge steps with long-term benefits for all of us.

I rang in the New Year, not with a resolution, but with hope. I hope, this year, to be a better me, physically, mentally and spiritually. I have hope for a healthier, more joyful year. And I hope that I will feel able to write about it and to share it with you.

Do you make a resolution each year? What did you decide on this year? What do you hope for?

12 Years Later

When I was 24, my Pop-Pop passed away. His passing was my first experience of loss. I was lucky, really, to have lived for 24 years without ever having to feel that emotion. After Pop’s funeral, I asked my dad if he was okay, and he said, “No. My father is dead, and I will never be the same.” Usually, my dad tended to be reserved with his feelings. So that answer left me feeling surprised that I had glimpsed such deep emotion within my father, touched that he would share his true feelings with me, and sad that he was experiencing the loss of his father – an emotion I could not ever imagine. But I never, truly, understood what he meant.

Today, I have been thinking of that moment. And 12 years later, I understand what my father was saying to me. There are some things that happen in our lives that change us. The moment in time when a child realizes that parents don’t actually know everything. Being faced, somehow, with a sense of your own mortality. Falling in love. Becoming a parent and gazing at your baby’s face for the first time. These moments change us, open our eyes wider and teach us lessons about ourselves. That is what my father was saying to me: that the loss of his own father had changed him forever.

I understand now, because I realize that I have been altered irrevocably by my own loss. I am not the same person I was 3 months ago. And maybe this has been my problem as I have been struggling to cope with my grief and anger. I have been trying to get past this emotional roadblock so that I could get back to feeling the way I did before. But I realize now that I will never be the person I was before my loss. Its as though I have lost some sort of innocence, and like Eve and her apple, I can never get it back.

I am unsure of this new me. Like a pair of new shoes that need to be worn in, I feel stiff and uncomfortable and am careful where I step. It’s true that I have had other life-altering events happen, but they seemed more subtle in comparison. Although I can’t help but think that I walked away from each of those things a better person… eventually. As I lie awake at night, listening to the quiet of my house, the soft breathing of my husband next to me, I wonder if anyone ever truly recovers from the loss of a loved one, or if it lives within us forever as we move through our lives. The people you see every day – strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – may be walking around carrying something heavy and deep inside of them, but they can still laugh and live and love. All I know for sure is that my eyes have been opened a little wider, and the familiar road I have been traveling has a new landscape. I will never be the same, and life starts new from here.

Products of Conception

Biology 101

This morning, a friend called me out about my last post, “The Nitty-Gritty.” I was told that I shouldn’t be apologizing for grieving. She is right, but I can’t seem to help it. I’ve been made to feel like I shouldn’t be feeling this way because I was only 15 weeks pregnant. I haven’t been able to find closure. And I’m going to tell you why.

The same night I was discharged from the hospital, pretty drugged up on something similar to Morphine, I called my midwife and told her what had happened. I don’t remember if I asked her what came next, but she did tell me that it was most likely hospital policy that the baby’s body and the placenta (which I had delivered together) would be sent to the Pathology Lab for testing. She said this was a standard procedure. When the weekend was over, I signed various forms authorizing my midwives to request all my medical records from the night of my miscarriage. They had told me that they would review all the labs, nurse’s notes and doctor’s orders and would try to figure out, based on the results, why I had gone into labor at 15 weeks of pregnancy, and what the sex of the baby had been.

I waited for a week, maybe more (My memory is hazy since I’ve been in kind of a grief-induced walking coma for 2 months). When I heard back from my midwives, there was no answer to any of my questions. There was no Pathology report. There were no nurse’s notes or doctor’s orders. There were only the lab results on the blood work they had done, checking my iron levels and iron binding. My midwives expressed dismayed amazement that the hospital hadn’t sent the baby to Pathology. So I asked, what happened to my baby’s body? The answer: I don’t know. But I knew. Because I know that anything that comes from a person’s body that contains blood is considered a biohazardous material. And I know that biohazardous material is incinerated. I knew that if my baby’s body hadn’t been sent to Pathology, then it was thrown away, like trash. And this is what keeps me up at night.

I have been on a downward spiral of depression since I lost the baby. I feel regret that I chose to go to the hospital, because if I had stayed home and delivered with my midwife, I would have the answers to my questions. I feel guilt that I had been too shocked to form cohesive thoughts and verbalize the questions that were in my head. Why didn’t I ask to see the baby? Why didn’t I ask what I had had? Because I was thinking those things as I lay on the gurney in my bloody johnny. I feel devastated and disgusted and angry that my baby’s body was thrown away like a piece of trash and I will never have my questions answered. I feel cheated because instead of planting a tree in honor of a lost life, I could be burying my baby.

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor to talk about medication for this depression. When I told her what had happened, she looked at me with astonishment and actually said, “That is so fucked up!”. She told me it was no wonder I was depressed because on top of experiencing a traumatic loss, I had received poor care. My doctor told me she was going to call the hospital and try to find the answers to my questions so that I could try to find some closure. But she has not been able to find any answers for me. In fact, the answers she got left me feeling even worse. She was told by the head of the Emergency department that there is no protocol in the ER for the handling of “products of conception” after 12 weeks of pregnancy. There is no record of the Pathology lab ever receiving any “products of conception” in my name.

Those three words, products of conception, drilled a hole in my heart each time they were said. Over and over and over, “products of conception aren’t in Pathology” “products of conception aren’t stored anywhere in the hospital” “there are no protocols for the handling of products of conception”. The last time I checked, the definition of a product of conception is A BABY!! What the hell else is the product of conception? Baby, baby, baby, baby. Let’s say the word, people. I don’t give a shit if doctors and hospital personnel fear saying the word “baby” when referencing the “product” of pregnancy. Will the world end if we say that I delivered a baby – that my baby wasn’t sent to pathology – that there are no protocols for the handling of a baby’s body? I didn’t go into the hospital to have an abortion. I went into the hospital to deliver a baby. And I’d like that to be acknowledged.

My doctor asked about grief support groups for women who have miscarried. The answer was that there is one, but its for women who lost a baby at 18+ weeks of pregnancy. So because I was 15 weeks, I guess I’m not supposed to feel this bone-crushing grief? I guess I wasn’t supposed to have loved my unborn child, because I was just 15 weeks? I didn’t pass a kidney stone and spend the last 2 months grieving the stone. I delivered a baby. A baby I already loved. I am grieving a lost love. So why am I being made to feel like I shouldn’t be? I’ve been feeling like society thinks I shouldn’t have blinked an eye at the loss of my “product of conception” because I wasn’t at the socially acceptable number of weeks to feel grief. That is bullshit, but also why I feel apologetic when I burst into tears and can’t even speak when I think about it. I lay awake at night thinking of everything I should have done, all the questions I should have asked, wondering if I can ever go through another pregnancy again, even though I want that baby so badly that I cry. But I feel bad if I bring it up with friends, or cry about it to my family members. I don’t want to make others feel as badly as I do.

So that, my friend, is why I was apologetic. I’ll try better next time.