How To Make Bath Bombs

Quality time with Kid3 looks like projects Mom wants to do anyway.  We made bath bombs.  While my usual mold is the ball that you get your pantyhose in, I sometimes use the little paper cups I keep in my bathroom for brushing my teeth.  Last night Kid1 was being a teenager in the bathroom so we used little disposable horderve bowls.

Whisk together:

8 oz. Baking Soda

4 oz. Citric Acid (I get it from Whole Foods.  Sometimes with vitamins. Sometimes with canning supplies.)

4 oz. Corn Starch

2 oz. Epsom Salt

2 oz. Dead Sea Salt (I get the big bag next to the Epsom Salts at Walmart)

Separately, whisk together:

¾ teaspoon water

2 teaspoons essential oil (your choice, your scents)

2 ½ teaspoon almond oil (or olive)

A few drops of food coloring (going nuts will compromise how it clumps or if it reacts early)

Whisk the dry mixture while slowly pouring in the wet mixture.  It should begin to clump together and hold its shape if you squeeze it.  Too much liquid can start an early reaction and your bath bomb will bomb in your bowl.

Pack the mixture into your molds as tightly as you can.  Let it sit for a few minutes before carefully removing them from the mold.

I like to line a fluffy towel with wax paper to cradle them, but paper towels work too.  Let them sit and dry for at least a day before you use them.

Once dried, keep them in an air tight container, cellophane, or tissue.

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Startup Culture as it Relates to Motherhood

I’ve been temping at a web startup in Santa Monica and I love it.  Mostly it feels like slipping on a comfortable glove, but only because I have the perspective to see it. It looks like the push and hustle that comes in the early days of motherhood when all you came to expect as normal is shifted for the little one that flips things around for you.

Identity

All startups want to first define who they are.  What are their values? What matters and how will they make their impact? As a new Mom, I had to figure out who I am.  Do I copy the mothers I watched on television? What do I want to take from my parents and grandparents? What is something I want to distance myself from?  How do I identify as a mom, or as an individual? What about my children’s identity? It took many years to accept that my children were separate from me.  They had their own personalities and ideas.  They were going to need to do things their own way and all I could do is guide them from where I sat as Mom.  It was about defining us and setting boundaries that were flexible enough for who we were and wanted to be.

Relationships

There’s a lot of gentleness towards co-workers and inclusion through activities in a startup.  There are company-wide meetings and training with applause and congratulations.  There are company provided weekly meals and happy hours.  There are ping pong tournaments, though I’ve never seen anyone touch the Foosball table. The point is we want to like each other and I really feel we do.  In mothering, I want my boys to get along with each other.  One day when I’m gone, I know my kids will only have each other.  I often remind them that when they end up in therapy as adults, the only people that will understand exactly what their parents put them through is each other.  Without relationships, you can’t rely on others, and being unreliable and unwilling to trust is a weakness.  Relationship matters. This is taught and encouraged and part of the fabric of startup life.

Collaborative Environment

We work together.  Every opinion matters and we keep asking for it. This isn’t reflective of all mothers, but it’s how I run my house.  I try to get my kids to tell me what they think, know and feel.  If I don’t encourage them to see and understand the value within them, I can’t expect them to stand on the security of who they are.  If I don’t trust the boys I’m raising, how can I expect them to trust themselves?  Startups try to hire the right people so they can trust them with their ideas and know they’ll try to make the company successful.

Communication

Documentation and communication are everything in a startup.  It’s how we track progress and see where we came from.  Everything is written and talked about and brainstormed.  It’s about sharing what is in our heads so we can create something bigger together.  Mothering requires diligent communication.  Specifically, you have to be able to read your child’s language as well as their silence.  You have to understand how their bodies move so you’ll know when they aren’t moving normally.  It’s not enough to speak but to listen actively.  As a special needs mom and advocate, documentation is what gets the services you need. It’s a skill that flows fluidly between motherese and Salesforce.

Self Care and Care of Others

I’ve noticed that those in startups rarely take care of themselves.  Give them a job and they’ll do whatever it takes.  There’s a fluid ability to flex your reach into things outside of what was originally defined for you.  Give a person a problem and they’ll analyze several possible answers into solutions.  It’s a gift that is part of mothering.  You do whatever it takes for your child, but with both, there’s an inability to take care of yourself.  In these startups, you’ll have fully loaded kitchens to nourish your body, machines to keep you caffeinated, games to keep you agile and relieve stress and drinks to take the edge off in a grown-up way. In the office I’m currently in, there are even dogs that sit with their people and follow them to meetings. These people consistently put others ahead of themselves.  They are natural at caring for the world outside of themselves.

Focusing on the dogs . . . They are so loved and pampered.  They have neat haircuts and trimmed nails.  Their coats are glossy and well groomed.  They go on walks throughout the day. These dogs make their people go on walks and care for them.  (Much like children.) On Fridays I’ve noticed far fewer dogs in the office.  Their people work harder and will work through lunch or run to the bathroom because they have put their workflow ahead of their bladders.

It’s like being a Mom.  We’ll do all we can to care for our kids and our self care often looks like putting their needs first and getting the latent benefit of our sacrifice.  It’s that same drive and personality.  Self sacrifice and hard work is the default setting. Self care is secondary.  But unnecessary.  If your company wants to make you happy, they understand and want to honor your commitment.  They also understand the value of your contentment means they can pay you less but make you feel like they want you to stay because of the many perks. It’s like the harder exchange that comes in chasing toddlers and changing diapers.  It’s exhausting and hard work but the rewards of a happy child make you forget the frustrations.

Growth Strategy

As a startup, the goal is to grow and be so amazing in the world on it’s own that other companies will want to buy you.  So maybe it’s terribly creepy if you are trying to sell off your child, but really, the goal is independence and that comes from exponential growth and secure development. In that way, startups are exactly like motherhood.

Fear to Commit in Relationships or What are you afraid of?

If you had asked me what I was looking for in a relationship six months ago, I would have told you it wasn’t a relationship.  I was looking for company.  I thought that was what I wanted, because it was simple.  I wanted company for the nights when I didn’t have my kids. Someone to laugh with over dinner or to walk with and discuss literature without grades and term papers being involved. I wanted a connection that was as superficial as I could easily commit to. Or not commit to.

Mishegas. I wanted a heavy dose of mishegas with two helpings of batshit crazy lady. I pushed my boyfriend away. Repeatedly. Hard. For nothing he did, nothing I thought, and every spooked hint of the feels I had no control over. I pushed him away because I was falling in love. Somehow he is still around and even finds a way to love me back.

I was asking the wrong question.  What I should have asked myself was, “what are you afraid of?”

There was something so profound about being completely vulnerable after my miscarriage.  I let my walls down.  I was defenseless.  I wasn’t looking for failure.  I was in a space where all I could do was be loved and held.  In that space my fear was muted by loss and I was able to live outside of that fear long enough to see what I was blinded to before.

My boyfriend is a really special guy.  I wouldn’t have seen it while asking the wrong question.  He was supposed to be company, so when he wanted more, I freaked out and backed away while pushing him as far as I could.

Today I’m asking the right question:  What am I afraid of? The answer was commitment.

I made a commitment.  I was married and kept my vows.  I never had a crush on anyone while I was still with my husband.  I was faithful.  That marriage and the dreams I held for our lives vanished without warning.  I was afraid that if I committed again, I could lose it all again.

I talked to my nephew on Mother’s Day and he told me that being Yessie on the prowl was what he knew. I was being who he grew up with. That was shocking to me because I didn’t realize how easily I slipped into those old habits while online dating. I had no sex but I was just as broken as I was as a teenager.

I was afraid of losing control.

I worked hard to get my finances where I wanted them.  (Recent grief retail therapy doesn’t count.) I was proud of being able to lease a car on my own.  I was happy with being able to do what I wanted whenever I wanted.  The idea of someone else in my life that might try to control where I went and who I went with scared me. My boyfriend has a degree in finance and wanted to share his expertise and knowledge and I freaked out about financial abuse and control.

I was afraid I wouldn’t have my space. We both crave each other while also needing space. I don’t feel suffocated and had nothing to fear. We fit in the ways that matter.

I was afraid of losing my voice and not being heard. I didn’t know how to ask for support or how to be a partner.

For Mother’s Day my boyfriend bought me a leaf blower and weed whacker. Initially there were giggles. It’s not traditional. Years ago I would have been angry. I like tools. I’m terrified of circular saws but I’ve been looking at Dremels for a while. I want to replace mine. The thing is, he was watching me. When we lost our twins, I was pulling weeds like I was exorcising demons. He wanted to support that. He watches me carefully and he can see shifts in my mood that I can’t see. The projects I take on are balanced. He knows I have it covered and it’s cute to watch him struggle with not taking over, but he partners with me and listens for what I don’t say.

I was afraid of what co-parenting might look like. It was hard enough trusting my ex with diaper changes, let alone a new man who doesn’t know my kids like I do.

I had this moment on Mother’s Day where my boyfriend stepped into the step-father role with Kid3. He was teaching him how to use a BB gun. He showed him how to use the safety, and reminded him to point it to the ground. He even used a stern Dad voice in setting boundaries about needing supervision. It was a moment where my fear was replaced by that feeling you get when a man is being a great role model to your child. It’s somewhere between heart bursting and melting while your libido reminds you that you are far from dead in all of those lovely and tingly ways.  It was a moment where that lioness that protects her cubs also marks the territory that is hers. It was a terrific moment to be me.

I sat back on the porch and watched them and kept wondering what on earth was I afraid of.

Self Care and Who is Taking Care of You if You Aren’t?

One of the best perks of working through a temp agency is you get placed in really amazing companies.  I’m offered opportunities I would never have on my own because my placement means I’m disposable.  They can bang out a project and send me on my way without the work involved in a typical onboarding process.

Company hopping means I have had cubicles but I’ve also worked in open floor plans with sparse desks that lack personality.  I’ve had standing desks that lift with the touch of a button. (I miss that desk. We were friends.) Right now I have a laptop computer that opens up with recognition from my fingerprint.  I’ve had touchscreen laptops, dual monitors, touchscreen phone systems and noise cancelling headsets.  I’ve been to kitchens that were stocked with healthy free foods and insane amounts of junk to gnosh on.  Some companies regularly cater lunch on some days and others offer free products that they work really hard to sell to the public. They stock half and half next to the almond or coconut milk. There are touchscreen coffee makers that use Starbuck’s coffee or machines that will brew a triple shot espresso and in the next cup you can have a mocha latte or vanilla coffee.  On the way to my desk I’ve walked next to ping pong and foosball tournaments, full indoor basketball courts and dogs that go to work everyday.  I’ve been offered margaritas on the work patio or kombucha and beer on tap.  I’ve avoided monthly emergencies with a bathroom fully stocked with feminine products for free and unlimited Bath and Body Works soaps and lotions.  I’ve been next to co-workers on balance ball chairs that bounce and move as they type or handle calls. I’ve seen showers and a lactation lounge and heard about Summer flex days where 3 day weekends are expected and paid.

These companies treat their employees like they want them to stay.  They remind them to take breaks and stand and snack or relax.  Consistently, I have been in conversations with people at all of these companies where I wonder, if you’re not going to take care of yourself, who will?

I see (usually younger people) working through their lunch and forgetting to eat.  On a great day, I do it too.  There’s a zone where purpose meets drive and productivity babies don’t even need to be burped or changed. But I also make it a point to take care of myself.  I still treat myself like I love myself.  I act like I need to care for the toddler in me.

In my first week with this new company, I kept hearing complaints about the snacks.  The company was moving toward healthier snacks without bothering to focus on internalizing the ideals of healthy foods.  The masses revolted and complained.  I was on the elevator one day, and laughing at the outrage.  I mean, I used to love rolling out of bed for a cold Tommy’s chili burger for breakfast after several hours of too many drinks, too little water, and feet that were tortured in pumps on a dance floor all night.  A few years ago wheat sensitivities changed my ability to eat anything crusty, flaky or relatively cheap.  Earlier this year my gall bladder was taken out, changing my ability to handle fat.  My age has made changes necessary, and they were complaining about food I can no longer eat, while sitting in the same spot at their desks all day.  It was almost funny.  They were abusing their bodies, not knowing that age will take care of the rest one day.  I mean, if you refuse to take care of yourself, who will take care of you?

Self care is so important.

Rest when you need to.  Eat when you need to.  (I only put in my mouth what will make me insanely happy. Good food is a necessity.) Eat foods that will make you feel good.  Play.  Enjoy sunlight and laughter.  Cry when you need to.  Scream when you need to.  Say, “no,” when you need to. Commit to what will make you happy.  Take care of your body and your heart.

Seriously . . . If you refuse to take care of yourself, who do you think will do it?

 

13 Reasons Why and Suicide or Hard Conversations with my Boys

I like talking to my sons in the car.  I control how loud the radio is.  They can’t run away.  We can talk without looking at each other. I don’t shy away from the difficult conversations.  We’ve talked about the divorce, Dad and Mom dating other people, wet dreams, racism, abuse and homophobia.  A lot of times I talk and they listen.  On really good days, they ask questions and tell me their thoughts.

I was dropping them off at school when the radio station started discussing 13 Reasons Why, the Netflix series.  This was one of those moments I embraced as a moment to face them in honesty and openness, hoping they would gain clarity, and started by asking what they know about it.

Kid1 knew the basic story.  I admitted that I had binge watched the whole shebang over a couple of days.  It draws you in, but not in a responsible way.  I had to point out a few things that I felt needed to be pointed out and I’m giving you the benefit of that talk.

First we talked about our own experiences.  I started with theirs.  My older two sons were taken by ambulance from school after telling their teachers they wanted to kill themselves.  As hard as that was, I’m grateful they talked to adults they could trust.  They made the choice to verbalize their feelings and we were able to support them by getting help. It’s the kind of experience that shakes a family up.  My younger kids learned from what the oldest did, but I hope to teach my kids from what I know.

Depression isn’t a life sentence.  We are given coping skills by example from our parents.  If I learn how to navigate depression, being self aware with self love and amazing coping skills, they could learn from me.  It’s possible to break a family cycle of anything but if it’s to be done, it has to be done by me.  I don’t get to sit this one out and hope they float.  You don’t just survive life after the existence that I have had.  You thrive, you take names with your notes, and you hold the hands of those looking for guidance.

Back to my boys . . . We talked about the series. This was a book and a work of fiction. Suicide is permanent and discussing it with my kids, it’s important for me to remember those teen years when everything was immediate and there was no real concept of permanence.  For my own memories, what lasted a few weeks or months seemed to be the end of the world and lasted the rest of my life.  At least until the next big thing to shake me to my core.

Suicide never gives a person as much control or power as Hannah (from the series) had.  You have nothing in death.  Even martyrs have no power, as the control of the movement is carried on by the living.  Hannah’s revenge plot was carried out by the living.

This doesn’t negate the power of what she endured.  The reality of some of that story is a reality for many teens.  The takeaway I wanted my kids to understand is that should they choose to watch it, they needed to pay attention to the fact that Hannah doesn’t take ownership of her situation or her reaction.  She blames everyone else for a choice she made on her own.

When I watched it, the part that didn’t fit for me was her depression.  She was sad.  She was alienated and targeted.  Was she depressed? My depression has looked like a desire to stay in bed and be isolated.  She wanted to be around others.  My appetite was affected and at the end of the series, I couldn’t relate to her.  The finality of her choice looked nothing like the times I debated “to be or not to be.” It looked like she stepped outside of deciding to end her life, and made her death a revenge plot.  In depressed states, I rarely thought about anyone but me.  I wasn’t capable of it.  I wasn’t able to look outside of the immediate moment and onto a moment in the next hour, let alone 13 tapes later.

I was open and honest with my kids about my experience.  I told them about the time I was hospitalized for my first suicide attempt at 14.  It wasn’t about being held by the hospital so I wouldn’t hurt myself.  I was hospitalized for an overdose of Tylenol and they kept me until they were able to get me stable.  I told them about getting help then.  I told them about getting help for the baby blues when my firstborn was a few months old. I described pushing Kid1 in a stroller to see my therapist because I needed help.  I reminded them about the period when my middle son was facing severe depression the first time. I was also taking care of their Dad’s late Uncle’s affairs.  To me, family means commitment and duty.  I had only met this Uncle a handful of times, but when it was time to take care of his remains and spending weeks on end to clear out his apartment, I was the only family willing to do so.  I was overwhelmed and unable to spend time with a therapist of my own, so I sought help with my general practitioner and she put me on antidepressants.  It was what I needed until I was able to safely care for my own emotional needs.  The lesson was that I got help and I kept getting help.

I also told my sons about what I’m feeling now.  I told them how hard it was to lose my children in a miscarriage.  I told them I’m not ready to release their ashes but it’s something we will do soon.  I explained that I cry when I need to and get space when I need to.  I’ve been gardening and baking and shopping because this is my version of self care.  I write and cry and sing out loud because this is how I heal.  I start a new position in Santa Monica tomorrow and I will be near the ocean and find peace with the sounds and smell.  All this means I’m not okay, but I will be and it gets better each day.  It helps to be self aware which is something I am still learning.  It helps to know what is something I need to work through and what is something that comes from other people.

I explained that I don’t get to blame others for what I feel.  Maybe I’m a strong person and that means others take it for granted that I can handle everything.  Maybe I’m so hated that others like to kick me when I’m down.  Maybe the idea of losing a child is something that makes others face that fear on their own and that makes people uncomfortable.  There were three specific moments right after my miscarriage that I felt like being alone were better options.

The day after I found out I had miscarried was a Thursday.  I was walking around, knowing my twins had stopped living inside of me.  I felt so trapped and betrayed by my body. It felt like my heart was fractured and my belly felt heavy and burdened instead of light and filled with hope and life. I was trapped in my home and my skin.  I went for a walk through Chinatown to escape my thoughts.  I was called and then called out for not helping someone else through my grief.  I explained that my boyfriend and I were helping each other through it all and I was told, “who is helping me?” For a moment I felt like I was wrong for focusing on healing with my boyfriend as they were our kids.  I worked through the anger and realised I wasn’t wrong in doing what we needed to in order to get through what we had to get through. I wasn’t responsible for how others needed to face our loss.

The day after the abortion I didn’t want, I was called by someone else and told I was so hated that this person couldn’t find empathy for me, and somehow I was supposed to make this person feel better.  I was putting him in an awkward position, somehow. I was packing away my maternity clothes that no longer fit and ultrasounds that were no longer a focus of hope.  In my grief, I was preparing for my boyfriend and my sons to come home.  In a rare moment I was trapped in a feeling that I hadn’t known in months or maybe a year.  I was manipulated and made to feel bad by someone that no longer matters in my life.  It took a while to separate what was grief and what was irrelevant so I could move on.  When I felt the power of my grief removed from the pain of someone else’s expectation, I felt peace.  I know I couldn’t have controlled what happened and I was dealing appropriately with what we were given.  I felt peace in knowing I wasn’t being unreasonable but the call I took was.

On Monday, not yet a week from the news, I was making calls to have my babies cremated and I was expected to stop that to help someone else with everyday life.  I did.  I managed to function outside of my expectations and do what I was asked.  I needed time to myself and to take care of my children but outside life rarely allows you the space you need.  I was intentional with responding to the situation and not reacting the way my heart wanted me to.

I am accountable for how I choose to react or respond.

I am worthy of loving myself.  Self love when angry, sad, or hurt.  I am worthy of it.

I am not expected to take care of others, although it is nice to know I can because I’m a strong woman.

I can separate my feelings from those imposed on me.

I can ask for help.

I hope that at the end of the day my kids can learn from my experiences and know that there is help and hope and a future through depression.  You get to live and in living through your pain and finding the rainbows through the storms, you get to help others.  It’s a gift. I don’t hate 13 Reasons Why.  I’m grateful for the conversation it started.

As of now, I’m still involved in self care and my family is loving the gluten free red velvet cakes I keep baking.  My yard looks nicer than it has and in a few weeks we’ll have fresh veggies warm from the sun.  And I’m still here.

 

What Helps Me Through Miscarriage Grief and Clarity Through the Pain

The shock of loss is one of the most profound perspective shifting traumas I have ever endured.  I’m learning there’s a gift through loss if you are open to it.

The gift of vulnerability.

I admit to being one of those hardened single moms.  I know I’m not the only one and that’s the sad reality of families that transition.  I felt strong and independent.  I was making ends meet with family support.  I was making my own choices and doing my own thing.  Letting someone in was the hard part.  With the boyfriend that was consistently choosing me, no matter how hard I pushed him away, I was constantly on guard, and looking for him to fail me.

When we lost our children, I was completely vulnerable. I was lost and directionless.  In the past week and a half, I wasn’t looking for anything as grief worked through us, but I found every time I started crying, strong arms wrapped around me and cradled me.  He took care of me, making sure I ate, and seeing to all of my needs.  I stopped looking for failure and discovered he’s a better man than I deserve for the way I’ve treated him.

Problems that seemed to be insurmountable are now insignificant after going through our loss while holding hands.

Finding strength through adverse reactions.

I am a strong woman with an intense personality.  This is who I am and I am content with defying what is expected of me.  I’ve learned that my strength can inspire and offset others.  I’ve had people tell me they needed me to help them through my loss in the past week.

Finding your voice sometimes means saying nothing.

I’ve had people push their needs on me, and I’ve decided it’s not my job to make others feel better about how I feel or what I am going through.  Sometimes that means ignoring calls.  I’m the only one that can decide how I grieve and what will comfort me.

Connection is healing.

I was lucky to find Natural Grace Funerals.  They have picked our babies up from the hospital and will cremate them for us.  Aside from the crematory fee, they work pro bono for miscarried children.  When I spoke with the director, she told me that she is also a mother to twins. We shared a moment of knowing that no matter how small they were, this was something I need to do and as a mother, she felt the same way. We’ll release them into the ocean.

Earlier this week, I went to Armstrong Garden Center to look for the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow bushes we will plant in their memory.  My boyfriend likes purple and I do too.  I saw the plants in my neighborhood growing up and the idea of seeing them and thinking of our children (we named them Sunny and Rain) was comforting. I was asking questions of one of their staff and told her about the miscarriage.  As I was leaving, she handed me a couple of crystal angels with purple wings as a gift to keep my angels near me. Other than the plant, I never discussed purple or that I have a lavender scrapbook for them. She told me about a friend that had just lost a 15 year old child and we shared a hug and tears.

4.26.2017

Connecting with someone else is healing for me, but being open to the words she offered and the hug that came with it was healing for her as well.  Connection is what binds us through our community and with our humanity.

Letting go can feel natural.

I’ve been purging junk all week.  It started with heavy weeding in the garden.  Then I started clearing out things in the storage shed, and laundry room.  I started cleaning out things in the house.  For so long I held onto junk.

When I worked at a mini storage, a woman once told me that she had to go through her mother’s things because she was tired of making monthly installments on delayed grief.

I was doing that too.

I finally went through that plastic bin full of pictures and sorted out what was mine and my ex’s, and each of the kids.  I set aside family pictures and wedding things for the kids because who we were as a couple is part of their identity.  They’ll want that one day.  As I was cleaning out the bathroom, I realized I still had a bottle of the ex’s shampoo and I realized it didn’t hurt to let go.  It felt liberating.

For the twins, I had started a scrapbook and today I will complete it and put it on the shelf.  I won’t wait to process it all.  It’s painful.  There is so much longing and I miss the feeling of life inside of me, but I can’t be the mother my sons need if I’m intentionally waiting to live again.  I’ll celebrate the process and really enjoy the memory of the time I had with them, but then I will give myself permission to let go and to cry, as I have been.  Sometimes several times an hour.

Grief and loss are natural, but not normal.

As I know this pain will ease up and pass as life cycles with change, transition and rebirth, I also know that I’m where I need to be.  I need to feel the loss.  I need to accept I will not always have a smile on my face.  At the same time, there has been laughter.  It’s not that I can forget my babies or compartmentalize my feelings.  Life is full of variance and joy comes with the pain.  I’m experiencing each moment as it comes, specifically staying away from alcohol or anything that would numb my feelings.

Sometimes there’s laughter.  Sometimes there’s tears.  Sometimes I cling to my boyfriend with intense desperation because I can’t handle the surprise gut punches that remind me I’ve lost something wonderful and incredible. What I’m feeling is completely natural, but life only offers moments of grief every so often.  We are built to get through it to appreciate the lows as well as the highs, but it’s not constant.  This pain is natural, but living in it constantly would make it normal and that would take away from what we are given to grow through. And I’m growing through it.

Actively Grieving Through My Miscarriage

Last year we (the collective world touched by Prince’s music) lost a celebrity, and my post about grief at that time feels so naive and superficial to me right now.

On Wednesday I went in for a nuchal translucency exam on my twins.  Immediately the tech asked about my due date because they were measuring small.  As he checked different things, I thought they were still because they were sleeping. He looked for what should have been a heartbeat, and I watched the screen, not seeing what we were looking for.  Not imagining any kind of connection. He said to relax as he checked numbers outside and came in with my doctor who wanted to see me early.  I told her it didn’t sound good and she admitted we needed a conversation.

In her exam room, she looked from different angles and took a deep breath before explaining that their hearts stopped about a week ago.  The phrase “genetic abnormality” is supposed to assure me there was nothing I did or could have done, but my children were gone.  I still looked round, but in the week where I had lost them, my breasts weren’t as sensitive and I was really clingy.  I felt like an emotional vacuum and no touch was too much. I began imagining I felt a kick or a nudge, knowing it was too early for that.  My body knew but refused to accept they were gone.

I left and went to my son’s school for a meeting I knew I had to attend . . . A meeting that was pushed back for my appointment.  I saw my eldest son laughing with his friends, and couldn’t control my sobbing.  I talked with one of the school counselors because I knew my kids would need his support after I told them their siblings were gone.  I sat through the meeting, present and asking questions, assuring the team I was okay and would be okay.  I got through it.

The next day and every time I’ve woken up my hands were already searching for my children, and I knew they were gone.  Today was the first time that realization didn’t cause tears to fall before I opened my eyes.

I grew up in a church family and I’m familiar enough with pro-life propaganda to know what “gentle suctioning” would do to my children.  I begged to let them pass as they would have eventually but the evidence and concern for my safety meant I had to walk into a hospital so they could rip my children out of me. Words like “infection” from the death in my womb and “bleeding” out from blood thinners meant the risk to my own life and the children I still have to raise meant I had to do the impossibly painful.

I cried as my boyfriend drove us there.  I cried as he held my hand and walked me in.  At this point it had been day 3 of crying together and in shifts, relying on each other for strength and solace. I tried to hold it together and when I told my nurse the abortion was because they had died, she held me as we cried together. She took my last positive pregnancy test, and then let me keep it. I cried in pre-op, waiting for the doctors to talk to me and cried while they did.  I was numb as they wheeled me into the operating room for my last glance at the ultrasound. When I realized they were gone and there was no turning back, I sobbed as I let them move me and work around me to put me to sleep.  I woke up reaching for my children, knowing they weren’t there anymore and sobbing that they were gone.  My nurse drugged me into silence with both dilaudid and percocet and a prescription for 800 milligrams of ibuprofen for when I was out of hearing range. Her relief began when I was too drugged to cry for a pain she couldn’t soothe. Even through my pain and the opiates, her relief was such a contrast from what I felt.

It’s been a haze of tears.  I’m seeing the stages of grief, but they’re not really stages.  They overlap because feelings rarely take turns.  The stages like to reappear at random times too. And it comes in waves.  Sometimes you can see it coming.  Sometimes it hits you without warning.

Acceptance came first.  The first call I made was to my sister and the moment I heard her cheery voice I couldn’t talk.  The words finally came with a flood of tears and the depression that is never far from me. It’s fresh when I get new emails from Destination Maternity, or when I got home today to see the maternity clothes I bought, but didn’t wear.  I knew it was a high risk pregnancy and I might not see them born.  Denial hit right before the abortion.  They might call it a dilation and curettage because that name gives it clinical space, but I had to walk in and let them do it, hoping they would still be alive.  I bargained that they could stop growing and give their heart a break for a few days and start up again.  Life doesn’t work that way though.  Anger hit when I was looking at their last ultrasound and the resident assumed the pictures were bringing me pain and not the fact that my hope had died in that moment.  The overlap of emotions means I sobbed when all I wanted to tell her was to stop talking.  Sometimes silent presence is all that’s required of you.

There’s a plan.

I found out Wednesday and we’ve received a stream of love and support from our families since then. In spite of not being able to talk to many people.  I have one sister that gets the majority of my meltdowns and raging tears.  My parents calls are never ignored, nor are my children’s.  I can’t handle talking to most other people, and they are kind enough to text me.

Today I told my kids (by phone) without fully breaking down, knowing their Dad will support a pain they will keep from me.

I’m alone at home right now.  I’m putting away the maternity clothes with the ultrasounds and Easter plush baby sheep I gave the baby’s Dad for Easter. I will have to get laundry done to finish putting it all away. I’m putting away pregnancy books and prenatal vitamins and all evidence that their short lives have made in our home before everyone comes home.  As I’m feeling the cramps from the procedure that remind me they’re gone, the stretch and mourning echoes in soft sobs throughout the quiet of my home as I prepare for the noises of tomorrow when my home is too full of life for the hollow space I feel inside of me.

We’ll celebrate the lives we were able to witness.  They will always be our children. We’ve given them names.

I’m looking for a necklace that will remind me of them because I don’t even get a lock of hair. Honestly, that may be too hard right now. We’ll plant a couple of trees around the house for them.

I’ll find ways to be active and outdoors because working through it actively is where I will find my healing.  I keep hearing time heals everything, but I call bullshit on that.  You heal when you take what life has given you, pull it apart and put it together in a way that helps and heals, rather than festers and closes you off.  It’s messy and unkind.  I have to write. As much as this blog post feels like a journal entry, it’s about healing, and I have to hope it brings someone else comfort as I’m digging through the details to find my own. It’s raw.  It’s real.  Maybe it’ll get proofread in a few days.

I keep hearing that there is no loss as painful as that of a child, and we lost two, but I’m not sure that’s true.  I’ve been a granddaughter, an aunt, a niece, and friend . . . and this is my first time as a parent.  It’s the most pain I’ve ever felt.  There’s no way to downplay or minimize it, but I’m sure there are other losses greater than my own.  I can’t see this as the bottom because so many have risen from it.

Through the pain I’ve found compassion for others.  Compassion has been extended to me.  In spite everything that has passed between us, my ex has been the Dad our kids need in supporting me to support them. He is a great Dad.

Through the sadness, there has been laughter.

Through their loss, I’ve grown in ways that I was stubborn against just last week. The short time we have shared as parents has pushed us into better people than we were to the world and each other.  At 11-12 weeks gestation, they’re frequently called “fetus” and “tissue” but they were our babies. We had plans for their lives.  We wanted to watch them grow and do great things.

You have to work through the pain and get used to the tears.  You can’t numb yourself away because grief will make itself known in other areas of your life.  I’m sticking to Yoga pants for now, but my belly is already smaller than it was.  I can see my feet again when I look directly down when just a few days ago it was just my belly, full of life and hope.  I’m just not feeling as round as I was.

There have been similar losses in our families throughout our lives.  It’s given us compassion and understanding for our loved ones.  It’s given us an opportunity to help others work through their own delayed grief.  It’s given us ways to work out issues that used to feel so big to us, but are completely insignificant now.