Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Trying to live with pain

Being a nurse one of my responsibilities is teaching. Nurses all over the country teach patients and families a myriad of things. Some examples are post operative care, how to care for a wound, sterile technique and when to apply this, what different sounds and beeps mean on equipment that is being used, medication doses, side effects of medication, safety while in the hospital, diets and the list goes on and on. I feel like it is a good opportunity now to do some teaching on how to talk to family members, friends, and just people one may run into in daily life when the topic is stillbirth or miscarriage.

Over the past 4 years I have had a great deal of time to think and reflect about the loss of my girls. I feel like there is a BIG difference on the levels of grief in death. For example when the death comes as a surprise such as a stillbirth, car accident, accident in general, or take the Americans lost on 9-11-01. This is a shock. This type of death is totally not expected and hopes and dreams come to an end very fast. As far as my girls we were planning, expecting two babies in our near future, and had dreams for both of our girls. Now compare this to a death that you know is impending. I am not saying that this type of death is not sad or no one cares, I am just saying you have had time to process it, say goodbye, and plan. When my grandpa was in hospice we knew what lied ahead. We had many chances to talk to him, tell him how much we love him, and to say goodbye. I think one of the hardest things with an unexpected death is not being able to say goodbye as well as being in such shock and a state of confusion that you are just going through the motions.

I studied Kubler-Ross and the stages of grief when I was in college. This was the first time I took another look at the stages of grief and applied them to myself. It is true that you do not go through the stages in order. It is also common to go from depression and then to anger and then to depression again. I don’t think I still have really hit acceptance. I accept it up to a point, but not fully.

The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:
Denial (this isn't happening to me!)
Anger (why is this happening to me?)
Bargaining (I promise I'll be a better person if...)
Depression (I don't care anymore)
Acceptance (I'm ready for whatever comes)

I did not do much bargaining, but I hold a great deal of anger. There are days that I do think to myself “was that all a dream”? “Did that really happen to us”?
My girls were born on February 17th 2002. The following week Jeff was already back on the road traveling. Comments were made to him that this would “be good for him.” I don’t know how much he really grieved, but he has a very close relationship with the lord and that helped him during these times. For me a great deal of my anger was directed towards God. I also would find that I would be upset and crying and could not figure out how Jeff was able to walk around the house singing and walking around with a smile on his face. There were even times he would look at me and say “what is wrong.” I thought you have got to be kidding me. How could you ask me what is wrong. What do you think is wrong?

As February rolled into March Joey and I drove down to South Carolina with Jeff when he was on a business trip. We went and saw some family members. While we were there I felt uncomfortable and also at times like I just wanted to go hide somewhere. I was still overweight, had acne on my face, and overall not feeling good about my body image. A comment was made to me and it went something like this, “God didn’t want to give you more than you could handle.” “He knows that you are busy with Joey and he didn’t want to add to it.” I don’t think that people realize what they are saying. When you are grieving you tend to search for answers. Maybe the answer will come in a conversation, maybe a book, maybe God will whisper it in your ear, and maybe a movie will make it all click. For me it was thinking it would come in the form of a conversation. I listened to what people said and I went over and over it in my mind. So now that I processed this statement these are the questions I came up with.

1. Why can some people have twins, triplets, quads, etc. and are able to handle it?
2. Why can other people have twins with siblings and can handle it?
3. Why would God take my babies?
4. What did I do to prove to God that I could not handle it?

I know that this was probably not intended to hurt me, but it did. BAD
The spring and summer came and I began going to a group at the Children’s hospital. The group is called Precious Parents. As I went to this group I felt like I was making little to no progress. I felt like we were all focusing on doctors (who I was not blaming), what hospital we delivered, and that we were all stuck in grief. I guess I was looking at one of these “veterans” in this horrible reality of loss and thinking that they would have the answer as to how to get unstuck and kind of on with life in a way. I was looking at we need to do something, make something, plan a walk, just something. They talked about a walk and it was obvious that these “veterans” were into being in charge. Nothing ever took place. I was sad because I would have loved to have walked for Samantha and Sydney and raised money to a good organization. Maybe March of Dimes anything to feel like I was saying I care and I want to help this stop.
Going to the grocery store and out to public also now proved to be a difficult task. The first time I was out with Joey and asked “how many children do you have”? I replied “one”. I then went to the car and cried feeling like I just lied, feeling like I just betrayed Samantha and Sydney, feeling like Sam and Syd were up in heaven looking down and thinking “she forgot about us already”. I don’t think people realize the amount of pain and guilt I felt. I was damned if I do tell them then I have to explain and wait for that silence that follows. Making the person uncomfortable. All they would have to say is I am sorry to hear that, but some stupid remark normally followed. Then I was damned if I don’t by the guilt I felt and the feelings of being a bad mommy by my two precious girls.

Once I was on my way to pick up dry cleaning and a mother was getting out of her car with twin girls. I sat in the car with tears rolling down my face. I was for some reason now seeing twins everywhere I went.

As the moths started rolling by there were a few things I was noticing about myself. One was that I would not go out in public very often. I started becoming a home body and felt safer in the walls of my home than anywhere else. If I got urges to do something for myself like work on losing weight it always became another negative outcome. I went to the gym one night and put Joey into the daycare. When the step aerobics class was over I went to pickup Joey. He was the only child in the nursery. When I asked how he was the reply was “very good” and then the lady said “when are you due.” I did not think she was talking to me. I seriously did a turn around to look for someone behind me. Then it hit me. This lady thought I was pregnant. I told her that I lost two babies to stillbirth and her reply was something like “I once knew a person…” That is all I remember. All I was thinking was I should be a mom again by now to two more. Again I left with tears streaming down my face. Poor Joey. I am glad that he was so young he does not remember all the sadness and all the tears that fell from my eyes. I tried my best to be a good mommy, but at the same time the guilt would eat at me like I was forgetting two others.
We had friends that we would hang out with (two different couples) no longer keep in touch. So yes even in this horrible process and when you need friends the most some can’t handle it or are too uncomfortable so instead of being friends they move on. That is so sad to me. Especially when at a time like this you just need to know that people care. The last time the three couples were all together we were at one of the other peoples home for dinner. No one said a word about what happened for a while. I brought it up after feeling that there was so tension and uneasiness in the air. The reply by one of the other ladies was “I am glad that the elephant is out of the room now.” That was the first time I had ever heard this expression. Now when I hear it I am always reminded of that night. I remember talking to Jeff on the way home about what the comment meant and having our children referred to as pink elephants.
In the summer time Joey and I were invited to an aunt’s summer home for a week. We had a nice time. The sad thing is that this is my dad’s brother and his wife. They were never very close to my dad or mom and once I lost the twins they were calling and showing that they cared. As soon as I got pregnant a third time the calls and letters stopped. I guess they figured I was now cured. I enjoyed the time with them and just wish that my dad and his brother could become closer. (It is a long story) the reason I bring this up though is because in my kitchen is a board that has A) Samantha Marie and B) Sydney Evelyn. My aunt told me I should erase the board, because I probably made friends that come into my home uncomfortable. Well for some reason I am unable to do it.
This photo above was taken today (6-17-08) It stays! I will not erase it.

It is my house and if the names of my two girls make you uncomfortable than don’t come in my house. That board was a happy time and I don’t have many of those with the loss of the girls. At one point that board had several names on it. Boy’s names and girls names. Then we found out we were having girls and the names we chose were up on the board. My grandpa’s wife was Evelyn Marie. I never met my grandma. So the twin’s middle names became her name. The girls are buried next to my grandparents.

As summer became fall I was still searching for answers. We were talking about having another baby as well. Our arms were empty and some people that we talked to said that another baby would help with the pain of the loss. I became busy working on something that I felt hospitals may be interested in. Here is was 2004 and I had given birth to stillborns. When I left the hospital I left with a nice packet on grief. In it I was told how to talk to my child when grandpa dies, and what to do if a loved one commits suicide. In it there was nothing to help me with the loss of stillborn babies. How to grieve the loss of TWO lives. I was in the hospital about to give birth to TWO stillborn babies and in the room I had no pen, no paper, and no contact information as far as cemeteries, caskets, funeral homes. I also had no ideas. I was still in shock. I was to write an obituary. If someone would have mentioned putting a poem in the paper along with what I wrote, or clothing my girls, or any ideas of putting a teddy bear in the casket. NOTHING there was nothing given to me. I actually was writing questions for my doctor that came to my mind down on the side of a newspaper that Jeff bought. So in my spare time I wrote a pamphlet of my own. This was filled with everything I wish I had had, blank spots to write ideas and thoughts, information only relating to the death of stillborns, who at that point wants information on the death of grandpa and how to tell your child? How does that pertain to the women lying in the hospital bed? I went to the hospital that I worked and talked with some of the people in charge. I showed a prototype of my work and my concerns about what they were handing out. In the end something that I thought was a great idea and one that needed to be marketed to this hospital became another smack in the face. I was told that I needed to go back to school, get my masters degree, and take classes on GRIEF. Are you kidding me? I am living it. Here is a nice pretty lady that doesn’t have a clue telling me I need more education on death and dying. The ladies that I worked with when I was on light duty with Joey’s pregnancy down in the Quality improvement department were all very supportive. They were all really into what I had done and all saw the need. As of right now the prototype is still done. It is just lying around my home. Maybe that is something to think about again in the future.?

In October I went to a conference out in Las Vegas. This is a perinatal bereavement conference. Here is the website for the one that is this year. http://www.perinatalbereavementconference.org/index.html
Again I was searching for anything. I was no longer working as a nurse, and I felt like this was really aimed towards healthcare providers. I guess I was just looking for answers and ways to get though this anywhere and way I could.

I am glad that I went to the conference and in some ways I wish Jeff was there, but in other ways I was glad that I was alone. I still was no closer in feeling “healed” or that I was “over” the loss of the girls in any way, but the tears were not coming everyday now. I was getting closer to feeling able to go out into public again also.

November Jeff was out one day washing the cars. It was a nice day for November in northeastern Ohio and I was inside facing that my period was a few days late. I took a few deep breaths and took a pregnancy test. It was positive. There was no faint line and no squinting at the stick this time.

I don’t have answers as to why Samantha and Sydney are in heaven and not in my home enjoying times with Jeff, Joey, and myself. I never will fully know or understand why this happened to us. I will never know why some people deliver mono twins and others don’t even though all claim that the cords were knotted and tangled around necks. I still don’t know why every time I went for an ultrasound and asked about the cords I was told that the cords can not been seen why I have read other mono moms say that they were able to have the blood flow of the cords checked during ultrasound. It is still all a mystery to me. What I do know is that this type of loss hurts. It hurts badly and the pain never fully goes away. Time helps heal some of the pain as well as hearing a simple I am sorry for your loss. Or I am sorry for your pain. It is during this time that all you can do is be a friend, bringing God into any sentence that comes out of your mouth is not helpful nor is it helpful for you to try to come up with your own explanation as to why this happened. Unless God or a higher power spoke to you and said “You go tell Laurie that the reason this happened was because of XYZ...” the best thing for you to do is say nothing or I am sorry.

I don't have much for Samantha and Sydney, but the few things that I do have mean a great deal. This is an ultrasound that says "baby A" and "baby B"

This is in what would have been Samantha and Sydney's bedroom. These are two shadow boxes that my cousin put together for me. In it is my bracelet from the hospital, a poem from the hospital, and their footprints. Their is an article of clothing, but neither of the girls wore these.


angie said...

I hope that I've never said the wrong thing to you or someone else who has lost and am thankful for your candid and heartfelt thoughts on living with the pain of losing two children. It really does help people like me who have not experienced what you have gain a greater insight into what it must be like which in turn helps me to be more compassionate, thoughtful.......I hope.

angie said...

I also wanted to say that the memory boxes are beautiful, and I loved seeing your dry erase board.

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

I'm grateful for these posts. Your candidness about your loss is painful to read and it makes me so sad for you. Your little girls should be with you and I"m so sorry they are not. Your posts also make responding to loss easier because they give those of us who have not lost a child a window into your grief. That is so important, so valuable, and so appreciated.

I understand about the God comments. Honestly, I do not believe there is such a thing as "God's plan". Why on earth would God plan to take away babies? Its ridiculous. And of course you could handle them.

I hope blogging about your experience brings you closer to the answers you want and in some way will bring you peace.

Good & Crazy said...

Hi back. You didn't leave an email?

And I'm confused. I read your posts this morning and didn't know how to comment. I'm sorry for your loss seems kind of weak?

So I bloglined you and figured I would check back in to see if I was brave enough later.

Here I am. Send me your email address.

Jaime said...

I am truly sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story. I cannot pretend to imagine the pain and grief which you have felt.
I also agree with Angie, your memory boxes are beautiful!

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed