Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Secret Garden- September

What has helped you through out this new life the most. Is it your family? Your faith? Support groups? A ritual? Music? Physical activity? A new interest? It could be anything. Tell us about how whatever it is has helped you. 

The things that have helped me the most are:
1) Group and Individual counseling (w/Irene Kokatay) at Santa Barbara Hospice. Without this group of people, I would certainly not be where I am today. Andreas and I started going to counseling about a week after we lost baby Shiloh. We were referred to SB Hospice by Michael Cruse, a clinical social worker at SB Cottage Hospital (the staff there were absolutely amazing, btw). At first I dreaded going (actually, I still do! I ALWAYS turn into a crying mess), but I love that Andreas and I have a set time to talk about Shiloh, with people who can understand what we've been through, and continue to go through on a daily basis. It's very comforting to surround myself with those that can understand my feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, purposelessness. I find grief to be very isolating and the never-ending emotional roller coaster to be so tiring. Losing a child is also very hard on a marriage, so not only did Andreas and I both need to work separately on our grief and on ourselves, but we also needed to work together on our relationship. We both have had to adapt to our 'new normal'. 

2) Making Shiloh's memorial website. I'd have to say this is the most therapeutic of all. Andreas created the skeleton of Shiloh's website when we 'escaped' up to Big Bear for a few nights, about two weeks after Shiloh was born. We walked around the forest during the day and at night, sat in front of the fire drinking hot chocolate, talking, thinking, dreaming about Shiloh and making her website. It was a great outlet for me at the time because I had all of these things that I wanted to say to her, but didn't have a chance to. There are also so many people that never had the chance to meet Shiloh after she was born, so this was my way of having people remember her and put a name to her face. It also gave people who haven't experienced a loss some insight into how Andreas and I were coping and what we were feeling. I added a blog to Shiloh's website called Whispers to my Angel and continue to update it monthly with letters, poems and information from the media. I've heard from many women that my site is helping them to deal with their grief as well. I feel so honored that these women are able to find comfort there. Through this site, Shiloh has touched so many lives. This makes me so proud.

3) Being artistic (I call it my 'artistic grief')- writing letters and poems, writing Shiloh's name on the beach and on flower petals, taking photos, making terra cotta pots with lost babies' names and messages, making and engraving healing clay rocks, planting flowers, lighting candles for Shiloh, framing and hanging photos of her around the house, making photo albums and writing in her baby book.

4) Walks on the beach. Being near the ocean makes me feel close to her. It's so beautiful and cathartic to feel the breeze, smell the ocean air, and to just clear my head.

5) Blogging/Talking to other babylost women, helping them with their grief, hearing about their experiences and how they made it through amidst all the sorrow and emptiness. They also give me hope of having healthy, LIVE children in the near future

Friday, September 25, 2009

Letter to Shiloh, from Allison

My close babylost mamas: Allison, Heather (Lily’s mom) and Pia (Sam’s mum). We all met up in Santa Barbara one weekend.

This letter was written by my closest babylost mama, Allison, mommy to Christian, who is currently pregnant with Christian’s brother. She knows how much I’d love to be blessed with a sibling for Shiloh, so the letter hits home. It was the best birthday present ever- so thoughtful and so touching. 

Dearest baby girl Shiloh,

I wanted to write you this letter to ask you for a favor. First of all, I am sure you know this, but you have touched so many lives around you, and you are so desperately missed. I know your mommy longs for you, and her heart has been broken. She wanted so desperately to change your diapers, to breastfeed you, to look into your beautiful eyes and to smile at your precious little giggles. She envisioned so much for you, and well, now her life consists of trying to get through the days without you, the love of her life. I know your father couldn’t wait to see you on a little surf board, couldn’t wait to protect you… so many dreams lost by your much too soon departure, but yet so many souls have been touched forever by the magnitude of your presence. I am so grateful to have met your mom. She is such a wonderful and warm person, as you know. I wish she and I didn’t have to meet the way we did. I wish that I had never met her, and she had never met me, if it could mean that you were alive and well in her arms, and my baby boy Christian was alive and well in mine. Sometimes I daydream that you and Christian are playing together, and watching over your mommy and me. We had so many plans and dreams to be mothers to the two most precious babies ever to exist, and now we are just counting down the days until we are with you two again, this I know. 

I also know that your nursery, that was prepared out of joy and expectation of your arrival sits empty. I also know that your mother longs to hold a baby in her arms, and to care for it the way she wanted to care for you. Her arms are empty, her heart is aching, and even though you will always be her first-born exquisite angel, she desperately wants a sibling for you to protect from the skies. So Shiloh, I am asking you to send her a tiny little miracle, to help restore her hope, and to give her an ounce of joy back into her life. I know you are a very special little girl, and I ask you to please give her peace and comfort, and to truly give her the strength to smile again. You are an amazing little angel, almost a year old now, and I wish that I had gotten a chance to meet you. I wish that Christian and I had gotten to attend your first birthday party, here on earth. I know that Shiloh means “His Gift”. Thank you for the gift of your mommy’s friendship- I am so blessed to have found her and to have her comfort through these trying days. I feel like I know your beautiful soul through the love and warmth and support of your mother, and when I look into her eyes, I know you live on. 
Sending you sweet kisses precious child, and please tell my son that I love him and miss him desperately. 

Allison- Christian’s mommy

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Secret Garden

For the past 6 months, I've been haphazardly following the blogs of other moms who've lost their babies in one way or another. I've come across an oft used term that perfectly sums up this unspoken sisterhood of women who've lost a child: 'babylost'. It's very fitting: a man who's lost his wife is a widower, a child without parents is an orphan, and a woman who's lost her child is babylost. I've yet to use it colloquially with people who can't relate (i.e. those who haven't lost a child), but I'm going to start integrating it soon enough into my everyday conversations.

From this point on, I'm also going to start participating in a monthly blog questionnaire called The Secret Garden Meeting. I feel compelled to talk more about all-things-Shiloh. Life is going on around me, for me, and I find the pain and the memories, even only 11 months later, becoming dulled. I hate it. I want everything to remain vivid. I want the world to stop for just a moment everyday and carry a silent vigil for baby Shiloh. But I know that's not going to happen outside of my home, so this is my way of preserving her brief existence, her memory. The way The Secret Garden Meeting (TSGM) works is that Carly from Love Reign Over Me posts questions which we then copy and paste into our own blog, answer and then return to TSGM to leave the hyperlink to our blog. This month I will answer her questions from August, even though it's already September (Sept questions aren't posted yet). The topic of "the baby room" seems to come up frequently amongst other babylost parents, and this is what August's questions pertain to.

If you created a bedroom for your baby tell us what it was like.
We did create a bedroom for Shiloh. She is our first child and creating a baby room was one of the leading things on my to-do list. I was so excited. I knew I wanted to paint her room (we live in small, ugly apartment with run of the mill paint!), so I started researching designs within the first few months of pregnancy. After a few weeks, I came across a Disney design that I loved. So I downloaded the templates, printed them out, and went to Home Depot to pick out the Disney paints. My husband and I painted for two straight weeks, and it came out amazingly. The walls consist of three main colors- 2 shades of pink and 1 of brown, and are decorated with trees, leaves blowing in the wind, and birds. The opposite walls have a solid pink on the top half, and different colored stripes on the bottom half (see photos below). We bought Oeuf furniture- a beautiful white, modern crib and changing table/drawers with dark wood trim to match the brown wall; a cream colored futon, a white rice paper lamp and shelf from Ikea; and an old white dresser that I painted in stripes to match the wall. To hang Shiloh's clothes on, my mom and sister had made, just for baby Shiloh, an awesome clothes giraffe. We finished off the room with Baby Einstein layette. Putting her room together was certainly one of the happiest moments of my life.

Did you have it ready for them before they were born?
Shiloh's room was complete about a month before she was born. The last tasks (finished by Oct 15th) were washing all of her little baby clothes, folding them, and placing them into her dressers. I had also put her velour sheets on her organic crib mattress and on her changing table. The diapers and toiletries were organized in the top drawer of her changing table and I made a space for her towels, bath toiletries, and extra sheets in the linen cabinet (which was a BIG task considering the size of our apt!) so we could find all of her things easily when she needed to be bathed and changed. The outfit I was going to bring her home in was sitting neatly in her crib, underneath her Baby Einstein mobile. Everything was perfect.

If so how did you cope coming home to it without your baby?
During the first few months, I just cried uncontrollably every time I went into her room. But I let myself go there. I wanted to feel the pain because I knew what I was missing. I want to fully grieve for Shiloh and this is one avenue for my grief. Most people go into the hospital being pregnant and come home with their baby, but most unfortunately, I wasn't one of those lucky people. So her room held, and still holds, all of these dreams for me. As the months go by, it gets easier and easier to go in there because I let the good feelings come to the forefront, rather than just the sorrow and pain. I still cry and it's still very, very bittersweet, but it's one of the few things of hers that I have.

Did you pack it all away?
No- we didn't pack anything away that was in her room. Everything is still in its place. The diaper cake remains whole on top of her dresser, her French bear, books and cds sit on the bookshelf, the sheets are still on her crib and changing table, her clothes are in the dresser, and her Baby Einstein mobile continues to turn in the breeze. I can't bear to move her things around. They are still hers. Packing up her things, to me, is like trying to pack away her memory.

What is your baby's room now?
Nothing has been changed except to make space for my husband's desk (which I am REALLY not happy about!). He needed his own, quiet workspace and so has usurped a corner in Shiloh's room. I almost feel like he has violated the sacredness of it, but I guess I'll do anything for the breadwinner to be able to work more efficiently! It will always be Shiloh's room though, never an office.

If you lost your baby after they had come home what is it like going into there room now?
Since Shiloh was born sleeping due to an umbilical cord accident, this question doesn't pertain to me.

If you are trying to conceive again, or are pregnant again how do you feel about setting up another room before your baby is born?
When I get pregnant again, we won't be setting up another baby room, but will use Shiloh's. I would love to have her sibling 'borrow' Shiloh's things. If she's anything like her daddy and me, she would have loved to share! I haven't quite thought about what we will do if the next baby is a boy (since her room is pretty girly), but I think we will take it as it comes. I want to do everything differently next time. I feel like doing anything to prepare for another baby (once I am pregnant again) will be jinxing it. I hate that I can't be innocent anymore.

With Me

(The Gardenia that the Business School at Cal Poly SLO sent us after Shiloh was born- it’s just started to bloom)

I always feel you
Every minute of everyday
You’re with me somehow
Every time, a different way

One day you’re an insect
The next, the wind blowing through my hair
Or the fragrant bloom of a gardenia
Sometimes a reflection in my glassware

The flame of a candle nearby lit
A speck of color in daddy’s eye
The cheekiness of our puppy, Bear
A hot, lazy day in mid-July

A rainbow from the hose spray
A ripe tomato in a friend’s garden
A wave under daddy’s surfboard
My healing clay rocks as they harden

I’m able to see you now
Your presence- in a different light
Not only sadness and loss
Now you can bring more delight

And it’s no longer only me
Bringing you into all facets of life
Now your existence is self-sustaining
Present, omnipotent and rife

These frequent reminders of you
Whether au natural or gifted
My once too-dim outlook on life
An iota more, they have lifted

- Your Mommy, Rachel Simon