Archive for March, 2008

feeling hopeful

Yesterday I wrote

OK, I don’t mean for this to be a pity-party

But that wasn’t entirely true. I kind of did want a pity-party. I was feeling very sorry for myself. And I wanted you all to say “There, there, Patrice. It’ll be OK”. And you did. Thanks.

I know it’s not particularly useful to dwell on all the negatives over the past 5 years. But I was feeling so very overwhelmed. I felt almost like I needed to justify my sadness. As in: See? I’m not making this up. And I’m not making a mountain out of a molehill. It really is that bad.

And although I am trying to look at the silver lining when it comes to the layoff, I can’t help but think “Come ON! What more could possibly happen to me?!?” I am afraid to ask that question, however, for fear that the universe will show me what else could happen. Universe, please note: I am NOT asking the question.

Many people have told me that it may be a “blessing in disguise”. This may be true. But I really don’t understand why my blessings feel the need to wear a disguise! I am ready for a blessing in a blessing-suit to knock on my door!

In any case, I am feeling better this morning. I keep thinking about the interviews the other day. As time goes on, of course, I keep disecting and finding things I wish I’d done or said differently. But I still feel like it was a net positive.

And this morning I had a meeting with an executive outplacement service. This is something my company provides as part of the separation package, and I have to say it seems great. I have a counselor/advisor who will help me to figure out my interests/strengths/weaknesses, etc…, tune up my resume, interviewing skills, negotiation skills, and so on. He seems great. They have a ton of on-line and seminar-type support. I tell you, this is the kind of thing I’ve felt like I’ve needed for a long time, quite aside from my current predicament.

Even if the job with my old boss works out (and I hope it does), I feel like this is a valuable chance to help me position myself and set goals for the long term.

So I’m just out of that meeting and feeling hopeful. It feels good.

whoa, it’s been too long.

Thanks to you all who keep checking on me. The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind, again. So are you ready for the latest bombshell? I lost my job. Yes. We were notified last Monday, and last Thursday was our last day in the office. When I say “we”, I mean pretty much the whole Home Equity group – at least those of us based in Stamford. Another casualty of the mortgage crisis.

My life in the past five years just feels like a series of moments. Mostly bad, but some good. So let’s recap, dear friends. The highlights (or lowlights, as the case may be):

March 30th, 2003: My dad died from pancreatic cancer (only 60 years old)
December 28th, 2004: Our perfect daughter Annika, the absolute light of our lives, is born after a near-perfect pregnancy.
June 1st, 2006: Start a new job. Closer to home, but a different industry so a challenge to ‘learn the ropes’
June 9th, 2006: My grandmother passed away – at the ripe age of 94 – bless her soul
June 20th, 2006: Mom is diagnosed with lung cancer and starts an aggressive course of chemo/radiation
Fall/Winter 2006-2007: Mom puts up a good fight, but struggles with her health, including pneumonia and an esophogeal ulcer that makes her unable to eat and requires a feeding tube
March 2007: Mom has double vision and they find a spot of cancer on her skull, pressing on her optic nerve. Starts a new round of radiation and bounces back.
April 13th, 2007: Mom is too weak to get out of her chair. Calls her neighbor to take her down to the hospital.
April 17th, 2007: Mom falls in the hospital and breaks her hip (actually I think her hip gave out due to the cancer and she fell). She has hip replacement surgery the next day.
May-June, 2007: After just a difficult week at home, mom spends her last months between the hospital and a nursing home.
May 3rd, 2007: I find out I’m pregnant!
Middle of May sometime: OMG, it’s twins!
June 20th, 2007: I have CVS to find out if the babies are chromosomally OK (no CVS in Duluth, so I drive down to Minneapolis for it). A week later, I find out the babies look perfect, and we’re having a boy and a girl!
July 1st, 2007: Mom passes away after a very painful, difficult struggle
End of July, 2007: I return to CT, return to work. I’m VERY achey and uncomfortable.
Mid-August, 2007: One of the twins is quite a bit smaller than the other. Next month need to see a perinatologist
Mid-September, 2007: Both babies grow, but one is still much smaller. Showing signs of pre-eclampsia (high BP, swelling). Start working from home.
October 2nd, 2007: Mention upset stomach at perinatologist appointment. She orders bloodwork, stat. I’ve got HELLP Syndrome. I’m given steroids and babies will be born in 48 hours.
October 4th, 2007: My precious twins, Cole and Lina are born at just 26 weeks
October 8th, 2007: We are given the devastating news that Cole had a very severe bleed on his brain. No idea what this will mean for his future.
October 26th, 2007: After he becomes septic and very very ill, we make the heartwrenching decision to let him rest. He passes away in our arms at 3:00 pm.
January 4th, 2008: After a long uphill climb and getting past so many challenges, Lina is doing well. We decide to bring her to Greenwich Hospital to be closer to home, since I must return to work.
January 8th, 2008: The babies’ due date. The doctor tells me how well Lina is doing. She might be ready to come home as early as next week. I am elated, walking on air.
January 9th, 2008: We receive a call from the doctor. Lina’s bowel may have ruptured, she needs to go back down to Columbia Presbyterian for exploratory surgery. She is rushed in as soon as she gets there. The bowel is not ruptured, instead the blood supply had been twisted and cut off. The surgeons untwist it and hope that the restored bloodflow will heal the bowel. She is septic though, and it is unclear whether she can beat that.
January 11th, 2008: The surgeons operate again to determine how much of the bowel is salvageable. It turns out the blood supply itself was damaged and the entire bowel has died. There is nothing they can do for her. They bring her to us and she dies in our arms. Again, it was Friday, about 3:00.
March 17th, 2008: We are notified that our business unit is being shut down/merged with another and that our positions are being eliminated
March 20th, 2008: Last day in the office

OK, I don’t mean for this to be a pity-party, but doesn’t that seem like an awful lot for one person? There were lots of other things along the way, including my own bouts with pneumonia and recurring bronchitis. And of course there were moments of joy, too. Mostly centered around Annika.

In fairness, I should mention that it was not a shock last Monday when they informed us that our positions were eliminated. Anyone working in the mortgage industry (or even reading the news) could see the writing on the wall. Weeks before we had been told that things looked shaky, then very bad. For probably 2 weeks we knew it was coming and were just waiting for HR to get the paperwork together.

And, if I’m honest, I am not entirely distraught. I’d been with Citi for 12 years, and so my severance package is enough to take some of the pressure off. Still, after being with a company for 12 years…most of my friends are from Citi along the way… packing up last week felt very sad. It was saying goodbye again. Another loss. A blow on top of everything else…but then again, with the other events of the past 5 years, I am keeping it in a very different perspective.

So you’d think after all that, I could at least take a week and relax. But no. I got in touch with an old boss of mine (who had left Citi) and wound up setting up some interviews down in Delaware for yesterday. Then they called and asked if I could come down Tuesday as one person’s schedule couldn’t accommodate me on Wednesday. So I spent Friday suit-shopping (ugh) and Monday filling out a loooonnnnggg job history questionnaire they required. And preparing. I hadn’t interviewed (properly) in 12 years. And what I interviewed for 12 years ago was very different. Of course, I’d had some interviews within Citi, but when you’re internal, it’s different. So anyhow, the past week was anything but relaxing.

But I thought the interviews went well. I have a pretty good feeling. And my old boss has a couple of different possibilities in mind, so I feel pretty hopeful that something will work out. Whew. So now I can relax. I hope.

Know what I mean Jelly Bean?

It’s strange where these things can get you. This morning I was in CVS, browsing the Easter cards. I picked up a cute one with colorful Easter Bunnies and eggs on the front. “Happy Easter” it said. Then I opened it. The message inside was “Know what I mean Jelly Bean?”

I almost bought it. I still might go back for it. But that would be crazy, right?

P.S. Yesterday was 2 months, exactly, from the day Lina died.

It was Dreft

After Lina died, I tried to remember what she smelled like. I loved her smell. I knew, though, that if I ever smelled it again, I’d recognize it.

When Cole died, I put all his “stuff” and memories in the pack-n-play we have set up in our room. When Lina died, I did the same. I didn’t have a lot of things for them, but (together with the gifts, sympathy cards & funeral memories) it fills the P&P. I’ve just left it there, in the corner. I don’t really look at it. The other day, I decided it was time to start. I didn’t get very far. I did find a “Patient Belongings” bag that I brought home from the NICU. It contained her laundry – a blanket and 2 or 3 onesies that she had worn. So I put them in the washer. And I used the Dreft. Even though they didn’t really need to be all soft and gentle anymore. It was my last load of laundry for her.

When I took them out of the dryer, I buried my face in the warm fabric. It was Lina’s smell. It was my Jelly Bean. It’s nice to know how easy it will be to trigger those sweet memories.

Cole smelled like baby powder. That’s because, the one and only time I held him, the nurses had gotten him ready, taking off his wires and tubes, and rubbing him in baby lotion before dressing him. I miss him too.

I don’t know what to say.

The day after Cole died, I was sitting at the NICU computers, talking on the phone with Zina. She knew things were bad, and she called to find out what had happened and how we were doing. I was bawling as I told her we’d lost our precious little boy. When I hung up, a woman sitting next to me told me she’d overheard and she knew how I felt, because she’d lost one of her twins too.

Her boys were born at 26 weeks, back in July. One of her babies had died in utero and had kicked off her labor. After he was born, his brother was already on his way out and they couldn’t stop him from coming. He’d had his share of complications, but he was doing alright.

His due date was coming up in November. That’s the magic date in the NICU. Your due date. They tell you that if all goes well, your baby should come home close to his or her original due date. On Lina’s due date (January 8th), the doctor told us she might be ready to come home within a week. On January 9th it all fell apart. But that’s not what I’m writing about.

Little Michael wasn’t ready to go home by his due date. He struggled. He had a lot of issues with his little lungs. He was on and off the vent. But he’d made it that far, I was sure he was close to going home. I always stopped by his bed when I needed a little lift. He was so big and cute. He was a reminder that my itty bitty Lina would be ‘big’ one day, too. When we left for Greenwich, I couldn’t find Patti, so I left a note with my e-mail. She was shocked to see us back just a few days later. She watched us during that horrifying, miserable two days. And she prayed that she would never find herself in my shoes.

Yesterday, I got this e-mail:

This Friday at 10:50am our little precious boy Michael James passed away. Despite our dreams, hopes and prayers he lost the fight to join his loving family and all who awaited his departure from the hospital. During the nearly 8 months he fought for life, he inspired his doctors, nurses and family in his tenacious fight.

I am heartbroken. I had imagined him finally home with his loving family. I spoke with Patti, and I found that I didn’t know what to say to her. I thought I would, but I could not come up with words that expressed how sad I felt for her. There just are no words. But my heart knows what her heart is feeling.

The first thing she asked me is “How do you get through it?” I’ve asked that question a million times. Because it doesn’t seem possible. How DO you get through it? I’m not through it. So I don’t have the answer. But it’s true that time takes the edge off. A little.

This should not happen. To say it’s ‘not fair’ is pointless, but it isn’t. IT.IS.NOT.FAIR. This should not happen to babies. To parents who love them more than anything. I wish I knew what to say. I wonder if I ever will.

The dairy is closed

I pumped milk 4-5 times a day, every day. Or almost every day. It wasn’t easy. Actually, I did it with Annika too in order to give her milk at daycare. But with her, I actually had the reward of being able to nurse her as well. I pumped in the morning, at work, evening and overnight for 11 months before I finally threw in the towel.

But it was way harder in the NICU. I’d pump first thing in the morning – with a busy 3yo demanding my attention at the same time. Then I’d try in the NICU a couple of times. But I had to work it around rounds if I could and around the nurses’ care times (8,11,2,5). You’d think taking 20 minutes out a couple times a day would be manageable, but it was HARD. It was more than 20 min, too. Set up, clean up. And then squeeze in some quality time, holding Lina if possible… Even though I had “nothing to do” but sit around in the NICU all day, it always seemed like I was pressed for time.

Every day I thought about hanging it up. When Cole died, I thought it was over. I was only getting 1/4 oz total for each session. It was like this for almost a week. I thought yes, my milk is best, but formula would be OK too. Maybe a non-stressed mommy would be better. Still, I couldn’t quite bear to give it up. So I didn’t. I pumped right up until the very last day.

I had a freezer FULL of milk. She had come up to full feeds, and I was barely making enough every day to meet her needs by the end, but she started out so slow that I had built up a lot. She started taking only a 1/2 cc (ml) per day and moved up slowly from there. She was stuck at 3 cc’s for the longest time.

When Lina died, I remember one of the first things I thought about was “what am I going to do with all her milk”? For some reason that seemed like a critical question. I started doing research. Can I donate it? Where’s the nearest milk bank? Turns out, I probably couldn’t donate it. I’d taken antibiotics while pumping and I’d also lived in Europe (Turkey) for more than the ‘allowed’ time (a couple of months, I think).

Well, Esref came up with the pefectly logical solution: give it to Annika. I don’t know why that wasn’t obvious to me. So every evening, Annika started getting my milk mixed with a little cow’s milk. She never made a peep if she even noticed. I used the last of it last night. It’s all gone. My freezer is full of frozen veggies and batteries again.

I don’t know why I felt like I wanted to write about this. It feels momentous though, and I wanted to mark it, somehow. I guess making milk was one of the few ways I could really be Cole and Lina’s mommy. Doing a mommy thing. I miss it.

This was a hard week.

I cried a lot. I cried at inopportune moments. Sometimes I felt like I would never be able to stop crying. But of course I did. For awhile. I’m not sure why it was so hard. I mean, it’s all hard. But there was no particular event that ‘triggered’ it. I guess I just needed to. And I’m OK with that.

RedneckMommy writes a very entertaining blog about the adventures of her family in the sticks of Alberta, Canada. I found her blog when she was kind enough to leave a comment on mine, to assure me that it would get better easier someday. Sort of. She lost her little boy, too. He was 4 years old, and boy was he a cutie, from the pictures I’ve seen. I usually check her current blog every day. But she also kept a blog about her grief after he died. She started it in February ’06 and wrote until August ’07. So far I’ve only been able to read the Feb’06 and Mar’06 entries. I have to take it in small chunks because it’s so heavy for me.

What I find really interesting is that whenever I read someone’s story of grief, especially after losing a child, is how much it seems the same as mine. We all grieve differently, but yet…in some ways, it’s so very, very familiar. I read something that is so intimate…that I never thought I could explain to anyone, and yet someone else has captured it exactly. I think “Yes, yes! That’s exactly how I feel!”. And I think “I could have written that post.” Except I couldn’t. Because I’m not that good. But reading a bit and writing a bit…I’m working through it.

RedneckMommy wrote on March 22, 2006 about explaining to her friend what it felt like to grieve for her boy. I wanted to share it, because it is really a good description. Now, I tend to be a little suspect of metaphors. They can get a little corny. And when she started with the dark room and the candle, I thought “uh oh, where’s this going?”. But it turned out to be spot on. At least it worked for me.

Alas, I now, finally, understand what it means to grieve. It is not something to take lightly. Not something you quickly move on from. It is real, and heavy, like a wet wool blanket tossed over your soul. My best friend asked me what it felt like, having to shoulder this burden, this loss. She was not being naive. She wanted to help, to understand. And the best way to describe this grief is to imagine you are alone in a dark room. In front of you is a candle. All you can see, all you can feel is the light from this candle. This is grief. For many days, weeks and months, all you can see is the light from this candle. Until one day, the candle is a little farther from your face. The light is not so bright. You can still see the candle, but you can also see other things in this room. The candle is always present. And on good days, the candle is an arms length away. But some mornings, some moments, the candle comes right up to your face, blinding you with it’s light, leaving you unable to see or feel any other thing. Except the damn candle. That is grief. It is always here, always present. And on good days you can see around the grief, but you never know when the grief is gonna get you. But it always sneaks back in. And you can’t blow out the candle. Ever.

What I really like about it is that it gives me hope. Because I’m still mostly in the candle right up in my face stage right now. But this helps me to believe that someday I will be able to see the other things in the room. Sometimes I can, already. But it also reassures me that it will never go away. Because honestly? I don’t want to let go. I feel a little bit like letting go of my grief is akin to letting go of my babies. But if I know that the candle will always be there, and I can’t ever blow it out…well, maybe I’ll feel a little less scared of letting that candle move back a little.


About Me

I'm a grieving mom. I have one beautiful daughter, Annika, who's 3 years old now (born 12/28/04). I also had twins, Lina and Cole, on 10/04/07, born at just 26 weeks. We lost Cole after just 23 days due to complications related to his prematurity. Fiesty little Lina overcame so much and just when she was getting ready to come home with us, suddenly had a complication unrelated to her prematurity and passed away on January 11, 2008. This blog is about getting through it. More...