Friday, February 9, 2018

#metoo

A few weeks ago, I participated in the Women's March 2.0, which is an amazing show of support for women throughout the world. And not just by women, but by men as well. This demonstration comes again after the #metoo movement started on social media, bringing light to the very real and constant abuse of women throughout every aspect of our lives.
To be clear, I have not been raped, but that doesn't undermine the sexual assaults I have experienced. They did, however, make me very uncomfortable, and only I can determine how they made me feel and what justifies them as sexual assault. The experiences range from early childhood to early adulthood, and are from girls as well as men throughout my life. Some from strangers, some were even considered friends. This #metoo movement brings up a lot of pain and anger for many women, and even men, across our country and world wide. But I am thankful for the ability to speak out, and it leaves me wondering what is next. At this point, we're saying, "you can't just do these despicable things and get away with it so easily any more."
This movement also highlights the deep disgust many feel for our current president. Many will deny this, but his dismissiveness of this ill treatment of women is what allows men to continue to pray upon women in such horrid ways. He makes it out to be nothing, which makes it okay in others minds. And this is just perpetuating a deep rooted problem. It is outrageous that there some in my own family who feel the "locker room talk" excuse is completely valid and appropriate, that it explains everything. Again, this just perpetuates the ill treatment toward women. Seeing comments from family defending this made me feel sick to my stomach. If these men, some of them very close to me, feel this way, how can I trust I'll be okay around them? That if I had a girl, she'd be safe? Certainly by their words there would be no defense of emotional support if something were to happen. They probably think it's the woman's fault. And sadly, there hasn't been any defense or support for those in my family who have been raped. These actions cannot be so easily dismissed. And the lack of support is most definitely not forgotten. It makes me feel outraged, and I've honestly lost all respect for those who stand by this "locker room talk" excuse.
Shortly after the president was elected, one family member posted a meme basically saying that if it's okay for female comedians to speak crudely, then it's okay for the president to speak crudely about women. Other family members chimed in with their "damn straight!!" and "yes, exactly!!" But they are completely missing the point being made by these so-called crude female comedians. It is actually the exact opposite of the crude remarks our president stands by. Crudely joking about being prayed upon is not equal to crudely joking about praying upon women. Being assaulted versus assaulting. They are so blind to this obvious difference. And sadly, all I can do is shake my head and just keep my son away from these people as much as possible. I've unfriended, hidden, removed, etc, etc, etc. I fear these negative influences will lead him astray and he could potentially do something that seems innocent by some people's standards, but in light of the #metoo movement, is crossing boundaries. And then what would become of him? We must teach him these boundaries, and pray that he learns to stay away from these negative influences in his life. There's almost a desperate drive to do this, as a way to protect him as well.
Politics shouldn't divide family, but when it brings out their true colors and degrading view points against the women in their lives, this is when division happens. So, instead of allowing their harsh negative views to enter my life daily, I am now filling my news feeds with the strong and courageous women in my life who inspire me to do more. They continue to put themselves out in to the limelight despite the sexist bullshit they deal with daily. They are fighting the good fight for equality and just treatment. And this doesn't stop with just women, it extends to the POC and LGBTQ communities as well. There are too many marginalized groups in this day and age, and it saddens my heart that we are still having these fights.
But, that's just it. We're still fighting. For equality, for justice, for love, and for so much more.
Because we got a lotta love to give.

Friday, February 2, 2018

35 for 35

Sometimes I become overwhelmed thinking about all the people in need. And not just within the US, but throughout the entire world. From needing clean water, to just needing water period, those of us who are blessed beyond our means, whether we know it or not, have much work to do for those around us. For me, it's what being a Christian means. Going to church every Sunday, in my mind, isn't what makes someone a Christian. Anyone can sit through a lecture and leave and not follow through in their actions. To me, being a Christian means being called to action to serve those around me, near and far, who need help. And actually DOING SOMETHING to help them.
Each year we sit down and decide where our monetary donations will go for the year. We try to do a little more each year, as well. It's great to know we can take action in such a removed way, and have that action be so varied. But, that's the kicker, we're completely removed from the actual help. And it benefits us as we sit down to do our taxes each year, too. Don't get me wrong, we appreciate being able to help and have it benefit us, it's a great system that drives those with more to help those with less.
But how much does that help actually affect us spiritually, emotionally, mentally? Again, we're completely removed from doing anything really. How would it feel to actually be taking some action without a reward for us? Maybe you've heard of people doing so many actions a year for what age they are, a 20 for 20, or 30 for 30. Well, today I'm 35, and I decided at the beginning of the year that I need to do a 35 for 35. It's kind of a lot, 3 things a month to be set up and done. But, it's doable. It'll dig in to my personal time in which I have a million things that I *need* to get done. This will take some serious effort to set up each action. It's a big goal, but I'm ready to take it on.
I actually kicked it off with something last Friday. Each year, throughout the US, volunteers get in to their cars at 2am toward the end of January and count all the homeless people they can find throughout their county. These numbers are what are then used by groups to estimate the need they'll have to provide for this entire year. The more I read about it, the more I needed to do this. Helping the homeless has been something I've been drawn to do since I was much younger. I'd question my mom over and over again about the food waste from restaurants and grocery stores, why can't they just give it to the homeless. Why can't abandoned buildings be set up with cots, etc, etc. I met someone online a couple of years ago who had been homeless, and now is helping with her own programs, and I questioned her for days. My gut reaction to her answers was that the homeless don't actually need our help. As a whole, they are wanderers who have trouble fitting in to the confines of society. They want to camp year round, but this means being considered too dirty for a job that can afford them showers and clean clothes and hair cuts. They want to do their drugs in peace. But this means being looked down upon by a society that still doesn't fully understand addiction. My gut reaction, essentially, was why should anyone help them? Her response: they are still people who are having a hard time in life, who are less fortunate than you or I, and who still deserve three meals a day. Sometimes children are involved, which is heart breaking. Whether they want it or not, they still need help.
I now follow several homeless pages on Facebook, through which I learned of the counting project. Waking up at 1am to drive around a given area on a map seriously does not sound like fun. I feel nauseous when I don't get enough sleep, or have to wake up before 4am (seriously, I've puked before just from waking up super early). But, these people will only be able to have access to food and sanitary supplies if others know how many to prepare for in this year. They can't count themselves. It's a very coordinated effort that the leaders painstakingly do their best to train others to do. The territory to cover is HUGE. As of the training meeting, Renton did not have enough volunteers to cover the whole area that needed counting. And this scared me. How will these people get help if they're not counted in the first place?!? But by last Friday, the meeting place we were to all depart from was FILLED. This restored some faith in the world for me, and it felt like we could actually get this job done. This is a completely thankless job. There's no celebration, I don't get to see the numbers. I just know what I saw, and that was three different vehicles - two vans and a car - most definitely being lived in, something I can't imagine with the huge house we live in filled with so many possessions.
This was something bigger than me, and something that did not benefit me in any way. And it still felt good that I was able to participate and get my part of the job done. There are many other activities I hope to do in my 35th year, including volunteering at a soup kitchen, helping to make shoes for children in other countries affected by jiggers, putting together care bags for the homeless, etc. There is so much work to be done, work that is meaningful to others. Something that is more than just giving money to a group that hopefully does the appropriate things it says it will do with said money. And hopefully this will lead to a new habit that will continue on beyond my 35th year.
Because I got a lotta love to give.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Guilt

Guilt is fairly common when dealing with child loss. And it's not just the personal aspects stemming from the events leading up to the loss that involve self blame, but this guilt extends to multiple avenues and in to some very different relationships. It can be difficult to navigate the relationships involved.
The first route of this guilt that I felt, and still feel most often, surrounds my relationships with my fellow loss community parents. We've all experienced the harrowing loss of a child. We've come together to support each other with this mutual understanding of pain, fear, and even jealousy toward the outside world of naive parents who haven't experienced a loss (and hopefully they never do, too). We cheer each other on when we are able to move forward and continue trying to build our families. And yet, not all of us have been able to move forward in this way. For many of us, it becomes a desperate struggle. We couldn't bring the lost child in to the world safely, so we must do things differently and get pregnant quickly and easily and have a healthy child. For me, the drive to do this was insane. I can't speak for the rest within my close group of the intensity of this drive, but for me, it was even stronger than my initial internal drive to have children before losing Korbin. But I have some very dear friends within my group that are still struggling, and it breaks my heart. They want a child with them just like any of us, but they haven't experienced the success of bringing one in to this world just yet. And it makes me feel so guilty that I get to have P. We're all friends on social media, where I want to share P's successes daily, but I also find myself holding back knowing there are others out there who want to be sharing the same things, but are not able to (hopefully just yet). I totally understand the feeling of jealousy toward those that have children, especially when we were without after leaving the hospital from Korbin's birth. Because I can understand from what I was feeling in that time before P, I can only try to imagine how it has intensified over time as so many around them have finally had children without them, and are continuing to do so. Each success must be a blow to their fragile hearts. They are just the sweetest, kindest, people. But I totally get it when they don't show up to the rainbow baby filled events the rest of us have these days. And man, that guilt though.
The next guilt I experienced, was from finding out some dear friends were stopping their fertility journey despite not having children from it. This one cuts hard and deep as I work in the fertility world and I want joy for every patient I work with. Granted, I'm in the lab, which is a bit removed clinically from the patient care. But every specimen, every case, we hope brings joy to the patients involved. And it is so disheartening when it doesn't. As I was telling some who just revealed the end to their fertility journey recently, we specialists hope for success for every patient who comes through our clinic, and it is so hard for us to accept that there wasn't anything we could do to help some. We want to think we have all the answers, can solve all the problems. But nothing, sadly, is one hundred percent. I feel especially touched by these losses having suffered a loss myself, which deepens my empathy toward the families dealing with this. And yet, I also recognize that it is not the same. We can get pregnant with ease, we've cleared that hurdle without issues. These people have not even been allowed that joy. While it hurts to know others experience loss as well (something I wouldn't even wish upon my worst enemy), their loss seems, to me, even deeper. And I don't know how to connect with that. I want to support their pain, but I tread lightly not knowing the right things to say. God forbid I ask about adoption or fostering, donor eggs or embryos. It's the natural next questions to ask, and yet I can remember being asked those questions after Korbin and feeling so angry and appalled anyone would suggest such things. It's just not that easy. And yet, here we are with P living our lives with a child and experiencing the joy and frustration of raising this little human. All while some of our loved ones literally cannot experience such feelings, no matter how hard they've tried.
Then there's the guilt I feel toward anyone who knows me who has gotten pregnant and had a child since we lost Korbin. Some of them have stayed away from me, most likely not wanting any of the bad-juju I must be carrying since I lost a child. And they of course don't want to take their chances and experience the loss themselves. And some have even confessed their new-found anxiety in knowing that child loss exists because of Korbin. A friend has even told us of not wanting children because of now knowing the chances of losing a child, even though it really is a small chance in this day and age. Great, we have affected others negatively when it comes to starting or continuing parenting journeys. This is so opposite the guilt I feel with my fellow loss parents. I mean, this final group, for the most part, knows the joys of having children, and have easily had children. And yet, they are letting others' experiences stop them from continuing to experience this joy. Versus those within my loss group, or those experiencing infertility, who still don't know the joys of having children with them but allow that drive to build their family to push them in to uncharted territories. I feel guilty that my experiences can affect others so deeply.
Through these different avenues of guilt, I do my best to continue to navigate the many relationships around us that are affected in ways we couldn't have ever imagined after the initial shock of losing Korbin. It's hard to just move forward in a carefree way and just so outwardly enjoy and share parenting. Not only because of our own personal loss, losing Korbin, but now too because of how our loss affects those around us. So, I just do my best to not complain about parenting struggles in front of them. Try to keep any parenting talk light-hearted and funny. But then does that only further their pain of loss? Are we driving their feelings of longing to reach new heights? Sometimes, Ryan jokes to others without kids, "do you really want kids?" Especially when P is really acting up, being his crazy three year old self. That one even makes me cringe a little bit. Of course they want this. The typical teasing becomes difficult. I guess there will always be some we need to walk on egg shells with, and I mean that with respect and love, empathy. Especially as it is probably how others around us feel about their relationship with us. We have to do our best to be conscious of the struggles and fears in others. We hope for this from others who know of Korbin's absence in our lives.
So, if you are reading this and know that you're part of any of the groups above, also know that you are in my thoughts and prayers constantly. We just want the same happiness for you. And we don't meant to bring up feelings of longing or jealousy.
Because we got a lotta love to give.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Potty Training

Watching your children grow up is such a mixed bag of emotions. I'm sure I've talked about this in numerous blog posts already, but it's exciting and fun, yet tinged with a sadness knowing that your tiny child is getting bigger and you'll never do something again, like nursing, or someday babywearing. It's bittersweet, but I'm grateful for the time that has passed and the memories it has given us.
Being a cloth diapering (CD) mama, the prospect of more and more time soaking, washing, rinsing, and hang drying and even sorting and counting my stash of cloth diapers felt like a mountain that just kept getting bigger as P has gotten older. We're at the point where Ry and I can start doing some independent things, so there's less time for some of the little things. And in prioritizing what should stay and what should go, cloth diapers, as adorable as they are, didn't make the cut. P is old enough now, too, that he understands what it means to go to the potty, which made this jump so much easier. Way easier than I expected! And the freedom from the chore of cloth diapering is amazing. I was so ready to NOT be changing diapers any more! We definitely put our time in.
Last night I pulled out all of the cloth diapers and accessories and detergents for listing in a local CD group. Thinking back, I remember feeling like we had such a small stash compared to others who go crazy for new or exclusive prints. But the pile we amassed really is quite impressive. (As soon as there's an app update for Blogger, I'll add pictures to this post!) We may even keep a couple as mementos. The newborn ones fit in to the palm of my hand! For almost four years we were almost exclusively cloth diapering. This saved so much money for us, as well as thousands of diapers going in to landfills. Over 7,000 diapers! I just did the math, and still wasn't expecting that high of a number. I definitely feel some pride that we accomplished this. It takes some extra effort and determination to be a CD family, and we did it! Although when I say "we", I really mean "I" as Ry was so not in to the CD business. We did have "disposable Sundays" in this house as that was P's day with Ry while I was at work (and this was factored in to the math above). We still saved so much!
Back to potty training. Despite how ready I was to be done with CD, I was so not ready for my baby to grow up again! And really, he wasn't even a baby in diapers any more, he'd become a toddler, and then a preschooler. It goes by so fast, and the memories tug at the heart strings for sure. P is almost four years old, and some people potty train their kiddos a lot sooner than we did. But part of it was the anxiety in wondering how the transition would change our lives until he gets it. We go places, we have packed schedules, and have a hard time just going with the flow. The thought of dealing with multiple accidents, or even just needing to stay home instead of doing a day trip that involves three hours of driving one way kept me from just jumping in and doing it. We're control freaks, and this just felt so largely out of our control. Until a friend gently told me, "He's ready, he'll know what to do, just read a little bit of Potty Training Bootcamp and you DON'T have to stick to it completely. Make it work for you." Not that we hadn't heard it before, but maybe the timing of those words was just right with my desire to now be free of CD laundry, and diapers in general. Thankfully daycare was on board as well (it's incredible knowing she was willing to take on CD while caring for P and I am so grateful for her!) and willing to take on the training with us. Though I'm sure she was more so looking forward to not changing his diapers any more either, ha!
It's amazing the stages we've been through and where we are now in watching P grow with us. I'll never forget how tiny he felt as such a little baby in my arms, and how adorable the fluffy butt from his cloth diapers looked. I miss the baby years. And though it's difficult to say goodbye to the stages we leave behind, I look forward to those ahead and helping P continue to grow up. It means he's still here with us and we get to continue parenting him, which means the world to us.
Because we got a lotta love to give.

Friday, January 5, 2018

This is why people get divorced

No, we're not getting divorced. This is just something that was said to us repeatedly while I was in recovery from my c-section with Korbin. Probably every 30 minutes. And honestly, I do think it helped keep us together. Hearing that made us cling to each other that much more instead of drift apart on separate grieving paths. We still have been grieving differently over the years, as is expected, but we've learned to go to each other in our grief.
It's amazing how much that phrase meant to us, as odd as it sounds. And yet, what if they had added: You can keep your baby with you as long as you need.
I recently listened to a podcast about death and what a family's options are when dealing with a loved one's body. What hit me like a slap in the face was the fact that you can take your deceased loved one home from the hospital. Like seriously, what. The. Fuck. My gut reaction is that we were totally screwed by the hospital. That's the anger in loss talking. But also, seriously, what an incredible way to have some serious closure when losing someone. This podcast discussed all the implications from how the family experiences the first signs of decompososition, like the smell, to really feeling like you had the final moments with the person that were so needed. Even if you didn't realize you needed that extra time. I feel like that would have added some much needed sanity to this incredibly insane moment in our lives.
I'm still a bit floored by learning this. I mean, not a single person, nurse, MA, doctor, psychologist, told us this was possible. Not even that we could have kept Korbin with us the entire time I was in the hospital. Instead we were rushed to give over his body while I was still too loopy to stand up for myself and my mental and emotional needs. This is possibly due to a lack of education, as well as a lack of cuddle cots. A cuddle cot is specifically designed to hold a deceased baby and keep the body cool enough to delay the first signs of decomposition, like the smell mentioned above, so that the family has time to process this devastating moment.
I can't even tell you the magnitude of the regret I still struggle to make peace with from our lack of time with Korbin's body. Therapy has helped me to process the regret a bit, but it is still there lurking beneath the surface of my grief.
As I continue to learn more about death and the laws surrounding what is supposed to happen to the bodies, I'm finding I am being drawn to educate others in our area. Not necessarily just the people I know, but hospitals, birthing centers, midwives, even funeral homes. In some states where this education is already present, funeral homes and hospitals are already equipped with cuddle cots to offer to families for rent. There's also the A Day With Chase foundation, which sparked my interest in learning more about cuddle cots. This foundation seeks to educate and provide cuddle cots to facilities so that they are available for use in such times of need. And yet, there are so many facilities that still don't even consider infant death that devastating to a family. There is still so much to learn, and so many to educate.
I'm making this one of my goals for 2018. To research all the ins and outs of a family's rights when it comes to losing a baby and how to best educate the facilities that care for these families. And also to develop a way to provide these facilities with the necessary tools to go along with this education, namely the cuddle cots.
Maybe it's for selfish reasons, to help me deal with my regrets and grief. But I sincerely want others to have a better chance at dealing with the devastating blow of the death of their baby, and to not have the regrets that I have to deal with daily. Proper education and support can alleviate that. And we just need to support each other.
Because we got a lotta love to give.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Hard Talks

Last night, P told me Korbin was downstairs.
While this happens on occasion, it never ceases to make my heart skip a beat. Because oh, how I truly do so wish that Korbin were just downstairs. Instead, I have to take a deep breath, think like the three year old that he is, and then explain again that Korbin is dead and is in Heaven.
Ya, it sucks. It's super rough. But it's necessary. Research in psychology of children's understanding of death shows that a child doesn't really get it till they're around 8 years old. We have a few more years of this.
In Parker's mind, Korbin bear is downstairs, which is all he knows of Korbin's physical presence. We've shown him Korbin's urn, explained that he was cremated after he died. But still, in Parker's mind, Korbin bear is here, therefore Korbin is here. In these moments we have to be matter of fact in the explanation of death. For instance, when Mama died, after the wake and watching her casket get lowered in to her grave and be covered by earth, Parker talked about how she was sleeping. We have been VERY careful to not go along with this as this can confuse a child and build a fear of falling asleep and never waking up. Explaining death to a child can be tricky, and then you wonder how much detail to include or leave out.
Being open and honest works best for us, sticking to basic facts and what we believe. We now talk more about Korbin's soul and Heaven, and say he's with Mama watching over all of us. Some may question these "facts", but they are what we believe to be true. (Believing this can be explained in a whole other lengthy post, we'll save that for another time. I've probably actually gone in to this subject in an earlier post....)
Lately, this conversation feels more and more devoid of emotion. And I'm actually unsure whether that's good or bad. I mean, will it help Parker to understand the gravity of Korbin's physical absence from our lives if I allow myself to break down and cry when talking about his death? Or could that potentially scar Parker emotionally and keep him from wanting to talk about Korbin again in the future? Or are we setting him up to not have any emotion surrounding death? Is that okay? And why or how could it not be okay? Not only is losing a child something any parent should NEVER have to ever go through, but the cyclical talks about death and the absence of this child with other children can be emotionally taxing at times as I wonder how much I'm screwing up this perfect little child who is here right in front of me.
Like I said, this is super rough.
It's seriously hard being a loss parent for so many reasons beyond just the fact of the loss of your child. Navigating these emotions as well as a questioning child through the lack of understanding is so difficult. The explaining and re-explaining can really bring you down when you thought all was okay with the world. And it comes at you from left field most of the time, too.
And last night, I found myself uttering the words "there would be two of you running about this house" as Parker and I were having this conversation again. He got a confused look in his eyes and across his face. Like, wait, there should be two of me? Of us? Two kids here? I don't know how much that actually helped him. It definitely brought me down in that moment. I felt like I failed that conversation, both for Parker's sake and for my heart. The mental image flashed so vividly through my mind in that moment, and my heart just ached.
There really should be two of them, and this makes me see how little I let myself imagine that. What I feel more is how big, and even empty, our wonderful home is. Don't get me wrong, I am so happy with the house we moved in to recently. Everything has a space, every room a purpose. We run around it and up and down the stairs and just love living in it. We've filled it, and are continuing to fill it, with furniture and fun finds from the adventures we enjoy taking as a family. Sometimes it seems in desperation to fill the void. As we came home from Fiji last month, I felt this emptiness like a heavy and overpowering presence that swallowed me as we walked through the house again. The walls suddenly felt too bare, the rooms too open and hollow. There was an echo. And yet, no matter how much we fill it up the nooks and crannies with stuff, the emptiness from Korbin's absence will always be there.
As a loss parent figuring out my own emotional state on a daily basis, I really hope I'm not screwing up the wonderfully perfect child who actually is here with us. He needs our help figuring out his own thoughts and feelings on death, as well as simply learning about his brother's short visit with us here on Earth. Maybe these moments aren't as devoid of emotion as I perceive them to be. Maybe, just maybe, they're really full of love. From Korbin? Coming through Parker as he asks about Korbin again as if Korbin is speaking through Parker to say, "hey mom, I'm still looking down on all of you." Or through me as I tell Parker the same?
Either way, despite the emptiness and seeming lack of emotion, we got a lotta love to give.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas Korbin

Five years. Five Christmases. So loved and always so very missed. It fills my heart with so much joy to be able to spoil this child this year, as it does each year. I wish we could see his face as he opens each gift, hoping he loves it and his little face lights up at all the things he asked for. But I guess it's better this way. That there is still a line of separation so that we remember Korbin's gone. There's no replacement for how much we'd love to see his little face light up each Christmas. I imagine it'd be more painful to actually see this little boy open and enjoy his gifts.



Hope this little five year old boy, who's brother is in hospice at Providence, feels loved and cherished this Christmas. He deserves it, as do all children, especially at Christmas time.
Here's to spoiling others in need.
Because we got a lotta love to give.