Posts Tagged 'grief'

alive and well

Thanks to all who have been concerned about me. I’m fine. My absence has been a cross between being busy (sister-in-law was visiting from Turkey for the past two weeks) and feeling a bit empty as far as having something blogworthy to say.

I feel unimaginably sad. All the time. I wander around and I am always thinking about what I’ve lost. Always. And when I think about writing that here, I pause. How many different ways can you say you’re sad? And how many times can you say it, before people don’t listen anymore. I’m not saying that people stop caring (I know you care because you are reading this). But I think it’s natural to shy away from a person’s pain when you feel/know there is nothing you can do to take it away.

Sometimes I want to be sad. Or at least, I’m at peace with it. I don’t enjoy it, but I sort of…revel in it. In those moments I can explore the sadness. I can write and when I’ve done that, it feels…satisfying. Like when you close your eyes and take a deep breath and then exhale. I feel full, present.

But right now I don’t feel like that. I don’t want the sadness. I want to pretend it’s not there. I don’t want to explore it. Even though the sadness is all around me taunting me whichever way I turn, I want to stick my fingers in my ears and shout “LA LA LA LA LA LA I CANT HEAR YOU”.

So that’s why I haven’t written lately.

edited to add:

I actually came on tonight to write about something else, and then wound up spilling the above. What I came on to write was this:

I held a baby today. It was the first time I’ve held a baby since Lina. On Fridays it’s become a semi-standing date to go to McDonalds with Annika’s “best friend” and her mom. They have a baby born on October 8th (I think) just a few days after Lina & Cole. We were in the infant room picking her up, and there was a little boy – also about 6 or 7 months – who had rolled himself off of the mat and was lying just on the linoleum. I picked him up to put him back on the mat, and oh.my.god. It felt so good, and yet…it broke my heart. I didn’t want to put him down. And yet…I wanted to run screaming from the room.

WHY am I not holding my own babies? HOW could this possibly have happened? I know the questions are rhetorical. But what I wouldn’t give not to have them to ask.

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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.

How many kids do you have?

Today when I picked Annika up from school it was storytime. She said she wanted to listen to the story before we went home, so I took a seat in the back row and waited. Midway through, the boy sitting next to her turned and asked

“Do you have a baby?” (baby-aby-aby-aby went the echo in my head)

Ouch. That’s a tough one. In the second or two it took me to respond, a million things went through my mind. Then, considering the fella is 3 and is probably looking for a simple answer, I responded

“No”.

He turned and looked quizzically at Annika.

“She died. And my brother too.”

And then it was over. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Since Cole died, I’ve given a fair amount of thought to how I would answer the question “How many kids do you have?” I guess the answer will depend on the circumstances. My mood, who’s asking, the context. Easy enough to say, but whether or not I hyperventilate or pass out when actually asked remains to be seen. Fortunately I have not been faced with that question. Well, until today, sort of, by a 3 year old. I didn’t pass out.

Today was my first day back to work. It was harder than I thought it was going to be. And I thought it was going to be hard. The first few times anyone talked to me, I cried (I didn’t think I would). I tried to hide in my cube the rest of the day. And then I did something that probably wasn’t so smart (if the goal was not crying). I called Mary. Our nurse. What can I say? I wanted to talk to her. I had tried calling yesterday, but she was off. I had time to kill at work because my ID/password are broken, so I called again. She was there. And she said all the right things. Including “you’ll always be the mom of three children”. Thank you. It was so good to talk to her. It really was. Maybe not so good for my image at work. Sniffle. (Actually, it was OK. Only a few very nice people were within earshot. And I’m not that easily embarrassed anyhow).

And a related question: am I still a mom of twins? My heart says yes, but I will never have those twin experiences. So can I relate to twin moms? Can they relate to me? While I was on bedrest, about a week before the babies were born, I joined the local Moms of Multiples (MOMs) club. I signed up for a playdate group for Annika, eager to meet other MOMs and get some pointers before the little ones arrived. I signed up for the Halloween party. After they were born, and especially after Cole died, I was afraid to reach out to them. A babysteps (online community I belong to) friend from TX actually contacted them for me and an amazing woman reached out to me. She wrote the most heartfelt, comforting e-mails. She brought me a huge stack of books. She brought me a gorgeous plant – cyclamen – which I killed (sorry, Leah). She put me in touch with another incredible MOM, who’d just lost one of her daughters a few months earlier. When Lina died, the MOMs really came out to support me. They sent me e-mail and cards, posted words of support on the bulletin board, and organized meals. At first I felt strange…accepting meals, help from “strangers”. But I can’t describe the way my heart felt when we came home on the night Lina died to find a box of hearty food on our doorstep.

Anyhow, what I’m trying to say, is that the MOMs are an amazing group. They are so generous, sympathetic and supportive. But when it comes time next September to pay my dues… do I do it? Do I still “belong”? When Lina was still alive, I felt…yes. My child is still a twin. And sure, I still have twins. But without the experiences…do I belong?

On the MOMs site, there is a “roster” with names and addresses, spouses names and a smiley face for each child with their ages, calculated automatically from their dates of birth. I have 3 smiley faces. One says “3 years” and two say “4 months”. But Lina and Cole are not 4 months old. They are 23 days old and 3 months 1 week old. They will always be those ages. Forever.

My family

I don’t have too much of it. I’m an only child, and I’ve lost both my dad (March 2003) and my mom (July 2007). That doesn’t mean I’ve been alone through all of this, fortunately. I belong to an amazing online community who I swear are like family, though I’ve never met most of them. We have neighbors (I mean, my childhood neighbors) some of whom I’ve known practically since birth, and they’ve been soooo supportive too. Especially the Witchalls. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

And then there’s my actual family. My mom & dad didn’t have big families either, and they’re spread out all across the country. My dad had a brother & a sister, but his sister died before I was born and my cousin grew up in New York, so I didn’t really know him growing up. We’ve been in touch over the past few years and we keep in loose contact by e-mail mostly with him and his wife. My uncle (dad’s brother) has been wonderful through all of it. He’s been sure to call me every couple of days since the babies were born, which was really, really a boost for me (I usually didn’t have the time/energy to make phone calls, but I was always so happy to receive them – to unload my anxieties or on good days to report on progress). My dad also had a very special aunt and uncle who love me like their own grandchild, I know. My dad had a cousin, too, who with his wife have stood by me through all this. My mom had one brother, but he passed away just before my dad did. Since my mom was sick I’ve been in close contact with his wife as well.

So a small family, but I know they care a great deal.

But through all this my family has grown. Not only my “virtual” family, but my real one as well. For some reason (or reasons, that I’m not aware of) my mom’s family has never been as close as my dad’s. Both my grandparents on my mom’s side were from large families, but I only ever knew one of my Grandpa’s brothers. But after my mom died, one of her cousins reached out to me, and I included her in my updates after Cole died and when Lina got sick. I have to say it has warmed my heart that so many “Kulseths” have reached out to me to share their sympathies.

It’s easy to feel very alone in the throes of heartbreak. I want to thank all those who have made me feel a little bit less so.

I’m hurting

I know, that seems obvious.  But it’s changed.  I was sort of numb for awhile.  Couldn’t believe it had happened. I felt like it was happening to someone else. Like I was following (like so many of you) the tragic story of that family who lost the babies.  It couldn’t be happening to me.  Not possible.

And so, although I knew it was happening to me, and I therefore felt indescribably sad and heartbroken, there was some detachment. Something surreal about it all.

Now it hurts.  I mean, like, hurts to breathe.  Breathing feels like it has become a deliberate event. Like if I didn’t think about it, I’d just forget to do it.

It’s still hard to believe it happened to me.  Lina should for sure have been home now. We should be snuggling together, chest to chest in our big recliner, watching the Martha Stewart show. I should be telling her how pretty and strong and wonderful she is.  She’d be approaching a month old (adjusted age – today is her 4 month actual birthday) and she’d be starting to smile.  Real smiles.  I did get a glimpse of what her smile would have looked like.  In the last few days she gave me a couple of those “gassy” smiles.  It was adorable.

Today in the mall it was all I could do not to buy her a whole wardrobe from H&M.  They have the cutest baby stuff.

I still can’t believe it. But what’s more, I don’t think I can accept it.

The guilt

Yes, I know I’m not supposed to do this. I know that the what-ifs can consume you and that they are not productive. But it’s so hard, if not impossible not to think about them. If love alone could have saved my babies they’d be in my arms today for sure. I loved them. I love them. And I just can’t stop thinking about every little thing I did or didn’t do that might have made a difference. Maybe it wouldn’t have saved them, but maybe it would have changed something? Made them a little bit comfier or… “happier”? I don’t know. I’m not one of those people who can say “I have no regrets”. I have tons of regrets, large and small, from all along the way. Things I wish I hadn’t (or had) done or said. Maybe writing some of them down will help me exercise them. Stop the endless movie playing in my head.

Let’s step back a sec. My mom. One of the things I heard my mom say to someone in the few weeks before she died was how she made a promise to herself when my grandfather died (more than 40 years ago) that she would never let my grandma spend Christmas alone, and she never had. Gulp. My mom spent last Christmas alone. She had been planning to come to CT to spend it with us, but at the very last minute she backed out. The radiation had given her an esophogeal ulcer and she couldn’t eat. She had a feeding tube, and had to give herself nutrition through that. She had shipped a case of the nutrition to us because it was too heavy to carry. But she was concerned about weather and getting stuck in Detroit on her layover (has happened more than once to us on winter trips to Duluth) and what she’d do if she couldn’t eat. Plus she had just gotten over pneumonia and was was worried about all the germ exposure travelling would entail. Made sense. She cancelled. I looked into booking a flight for us, but by that time, all the tickets I could find were like $1000 each. I decided that we’d come out later when tickets were more reasonable. Which we did. But now I feel terrible knowing how important that was to her. She never said anything to me though. And I console myself with the fact that I spent 2 months with her before she died. She didn’t die alone. But still… I carry this with me.

maviboncuk.jpgThe pregnancy. I have wondered if we should have even tempted fate. Everyone knows how dearly we love Annika. We have marvelled at how smart, pretty, well-adjusted (we think) she is. We have always felt blessed with her. I think I’ve thought about that every day since she was born, and probably expressed as much to many of you. I’d be lying if I said I’d never wondered if we were just asking for trouble to try for that again.

And then of course…did I do something during this pregnancy to cause this? I’d had such an easy, perfect pregnancy with Annika. Even though this one was much more uncomfortable and difficult right from the start, I pretty much went about life never really believing something could really go wrong. I was careful, yes. And when the doctors told me to stop going to work and rest, I did. But did I rest enough? I didn’t lay flat on my back 24/7 (for the record, nobody told me to). Was the activity I did too much? Somebody (my perinatologist, I think) told me that with pre-eclampsia, and particularly with HELLP Syndrome, that I had, they don’t actually have conclusive evidence that bedrest even helps. It’s just that they don’t know what else they can do. But maybe they just say that because what’s done is done, and it doesn’t help matters to feel guilty about what already happened. Especially when you have babes in the NICU to focus on. I don’t know. But how can you not ask yourself what you could have done to prevent something like this?

With Cole. In the early days I spent most of my time next to Lina. Partly it was logistics. Lina was in a corner, and there were chairs that sat over by her isolette. Plus she was so very tiny, and just seemed like she needed more attention. Cole’s bed was sort of in the middle of their “pod”. I wasn’t that strong, and usually needed to sit after a little while. I could have taken chairs over to Cole of course, and I did sometimes, but I just spent more time with Lina. Until he got sick. Really sick. I know that sitting next to him more wouldn’t have changed his outcome, but would he have felt more “loved”?

I regret each and every day I didn’t go to the NICU. There weren’t that many, but there were times I didn’t go because… I had other errands to run or I didn’t feel well. Especially with Lina, she was getting better and thought we had forever. I know they were getting the best care, and my being there wouldn’t have changed that. But would an extra touch have made them feel better? Would I have made one extra memory to carry with me? Those are all I have now.

It’s eating me up

The night before Lina got sick, I didn’t go to the hospital. It was Tuesday, January 8th. It was her due date. I had gone back to work the day before. That morning I went to the NICU, because I wanted to meet the doctor. Greenwich has 2 doctors who alternate weeks being “on”. I had met the other one the previous Friday when Lina got up there and over the weekend, and I wanted to touch base with the 2nd one.

I went in. I can’t even remember how long I stayed. I can’t remember if I held her that morning or if I just watched her and then spoke with the doc. The doctor and I had a long conversation. I asked him all my questions. The same ones that I’d asked the other doctor, and the same ones I’d asked before we left NY Presbyterian. It helped to keep hearing the answers over and over.

The doctor told me how well he thought she was doing. She was making such good progress, he thought she might even be ready to go home the next week, in the best case scenario. Well, I wasn’t so sure I was ready for that, but it was great news. One of the questions I asked him was that since she’d had the bout of NEC, whether there were complications we might have in the future. He said it was unlikely. Since she hadn’t needed surgery and seemed to be doing fine now, he didn’t think we’d have any issues (though of course he added the disclaimer that you can never be sure).

So I went to work feeling great. I told everyone how well she was doing. I was probably beaming. I had been planning to go over for her 9:00 feeding. But I was feeling really tired. I thought I might feel a tiny itch in my eyes and nose, and I thought the LAST thing I needed was to get run down and get sick, especially if she really was going to come home as soon as they thought she might. I’d just gotten over a cough I’d had for over a month (bronchitis and I don’t know what else), so I thought I’d play it safe. I called the nurse and told her I wasn’t coming in that night, but I would come in for her 9:00 am feeding and go to work late.

Well, that never happened because we got the call at 6:30 am the following morning. I rushed over, and she looked SO different. Just 24 hours earlier, she was a perfect, sweet little baby and now here she was, her belly HUGE, lying naked under the warmer on a ventilator. She looked so week and uncomfortable.

I keep reliving those moments. Why didn’t I go in that night? Would I have noticed something about her that might have hastened the diagnosis and treatment? Actually, I doubt it. I might have just said “oh, that’s just Lina’s belly”. And that early, it might not have even been noticeable. But the nurses did say she was irritable. At least I would have seen her before she got so, so sick.

I just can’t believe I wasn’t there.


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...