Saturday, August 29, 2009

Sweet, sweet smell...oh how I love you!

The past week has been dark, very dark for me. I'm at a place where its difficult to see any light at all. It feels as though I am moving backwards, in slow motion. Withdrawing from the world. (Mom, if you are reading this don't be too concerned) I know this time is just part of the journey through my grief. I think I am in fact moving forward in terms of grieving - feeling more and accepting the reality that I must somehow learn to live the rest of my life without my first born, my baby girl, my perfect Isla Michaela. Either that or I am really going crazy! Perhaps after reading what I am about to write, some of you make think it's the latter.

I smell her.

Her sweet new baby smell, and not the odour of the morgue which has saturated all the garments in her memory box thanks to the medical examiner performing her autopsy prior to the photographer from Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep arriving to take some final photos.

I smelled her for the first time the night I arrived home from the hospital. As I was climbing into bed, that sweet smell filled the room. I actually thought it was coming from her little hospital gowns in the memory box that was then sitting on a dresser in the bedroom, so I got up to smell the box. Nope. The smell was not coming from there, or anywhere else in the room.

As I laid in bed I inhaled deeply. Mmm. That smell, sweetness. It did not fade. I smelled her again the night before her funeral, when Tim and I were both so anxious about facing the reality that the following morning we would be with her little body again, in a coffin, and that we would have to bury that little body, never to see or hold it again.

Then she came to me one day at work. Again, just to make sure the smell was not coming from somewhere "real", I moved around my office smelling books and files. Nope. The smell was just around me as I sat at my desk.

Two nights ago, Tim was already sound asleep in bed when I crawled in after 1:00 a.m. As I snuggled up behind him, there she was. That sweet smell. It was as if she had been sleeping in bed with her daddy, and once I crawled in she was safely nestled between the two of us. I whispered "I love yous" to the air, and peacefully fell asleep.

Again last night, as Tim and I crawled into bed she was there. I asked Tim if he could smell her, but he couldn't. Hmm...maybe I am going crazy, I thought, but no matter how deeply I inhaled the smell would not fade. I silently mouthed many "I love yous" to the air and again drifted peacefully off to sleep.

A figment of my imagination? Maybe. But, had you have asked me before Isla's death if I believed in the presence of spirits around us, my answer would have definitively been yes.

The loss of my daughter has, however, forced me to reconsider all the beliefs I previously held. I think I have become somewhat of an agnostic. I still believe in God, but I certainly do not believe that Heaven is an actual place, separate from earth and the universe, where all our loved ones hang out in forms resembling the bodies they inhabited during their time in this life. This means I can not take comfort in believing that when I die, I too will go to Heaven and my baby girl, in infant form, will be there waiting for me in His arms.

I previously believed in reincarnation, and that souls visited earth many times over, in different forms, at different times, to learn many different lessons. This belief now frightens me, for I fear that when it is my time to go back to the spiritual world, the spirit of sweet Isla will be here on earth, in another body, and we may never have the opportunity to meet and embrace in the same realm. I also can't rationalize why little Isla's spirit would come to earth for such a brief time. What lesson she was here to learn? Unless of course she was here to teach us something. But that takes me back to the belief that everything happens for a reason, a belief I strongly held before and which now just makes me angry. If this has happened to us for some reason, than I am angry at the Big Guy pulling the strings. It leads to a bunch of whys. Why us? Why Isla? Why, why, why! Anger towards God is just not an emotion I ever want to feel.

So, for now I guess I believe that Isla's death was just an act of nature. An accident. Sometimes people just die for no reason other than their bodies have failed them. And, once people die, their spirits or souls go somewhere, and sometimes those spirits are around us, here on earth, and they can show themselves to us. I am comfortable with this belief right now. I have no one to be angry with and it makes me happy because then I can believe that sweet smell really is my baby girl, and that she is close to me. She is coming to me in my darkest hours, perhaps to ease my pain and to let me know she is okay; or perhaps because she needs to be closer to us, her mommy and daddy, to feel our love. Her visits have given me the opportunity to tell her I love her. Something I unfortunately never actually said out loud to her the day she died, and so desperately regret.

In a beautiful post dedicated to her sweet baby girl Georgina, Catherine W ( recently posted a clip of Nick Cave's Into My Arms, a song I had never heard before. I think the beautiful lyrics to this song are so fitting today, the one year anniversary of Georgina's passing:

I don't believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms

Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms

And I don't believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that's true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you
To each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk,like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms

Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms

But I believe in Love
And I know that you do too
And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you
So keep your candles burning
And make her journey bright and pure
That she will keep returning
Always and evermore

Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms

Thinking of Catherine and her family, and remembering baby Georgina today.

Also thinking of Sarah and David, and remembering baby Ezra today, on the day he was silently born.
I desperately hope one day, in some way, we will all be able to hold our precious babies in our arms, where they belong.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts of Mirne and Craig and Honest Scrap

For the past few days my thoughts have constantly been with Mirne and Craig. I've never met Mirne and Craig. I only know them through their blog But, I can tell you unequivocally that Mirne and Craig are the strongest and most courageous people I "know".

Mirne and Craig's first child, baby girl Freyja, was born still at 28 weeks in July, 2006. No answers as to why. Little baby Freyja just slipped away. Sometimes babies just die.

Trying again after losing a baby is TERRIFYING. This I know. I believe it is even more terrifying when you have no answers as to why your baby died. This is why I sit anxiously awaiting Isla's autopsy results and praying we will have answers, and that whatever killed my sweet baby girl is preventable, and history will not repeat itself.

With no answers and no guarantees, Mirne and Craig had the strength to keep going and the courage to try again. Ten months later, oh joy! Another pregnancy. Baby boy Kees was born in February, 2008. Full-term. Healthy. I can only imagine the sigh of relief his parents felt the day that sweet baby boy came into the world. The bliss when they brought him home.

Only for Mirne and Craig that bliss was short lived. At 7 weeks, sweet baby Kees caught a virus. A run of the mill cold/flu virus that "should" have gone to his lungs. But with no sniffles or warning, and against the odds, the virus stopped his heart. Another precious little life cut short.

This is the part I cannot imagine. How must it have felt for Mirne and Craig to lose their second child? How must it still feel? It is just so incredibly unfair.

That is one thing losing a baby teaches you, life is just not fair. I thought I understood this before losing Isla, but I didn't really. The other thing losing a baby teaches you is that there really are no guarantees in life, and that no matter how much sorrow you have suffered, you are never immune to more. People try to reassure me now that one day I will have another baby. Really?!How do they know?

But there is always hope, right? After loss, the desire to have a child, a child who lives, is so incredibly strong. To me, it feels like all that love I felt the moment I laid eyes on Isla is sort of restlessly trapped inside of me, waiting to be poured into another little somebody. Of course that love will always be with Isla. My love for HER will never fade. I pour it into her photos, her little keepsakes, her flowers at the cemetery. But its not enough. There is still so much love inside of me, brimming over, waiting for another little person who I can hold and nurse, and just parent for a lifetime.

I believe Mirne and Craig's hearts must also brimming over with love. Love so strong that despite all their pain and sorrow, Mirne and Craig had the strength to continue to go on living and the courage to try a third time to bring home a baby, who hopefully will outlive Mirne and Craig. SO STRONG and SO COURAGEOUS, and just so loving.

Tomorrow (which is almost today in Amsterdam), Mirne and Craig's third child, another baby boy, is scheduled to arrive. I can't imagine the mixed emotions Mirne and Craig must be feeling right now. Above all else, I imagine they feel hope and of course love, but I also understand they must be feeling a great deal of fear and trepidation. It is so sad that it must be this way for them. Please send your thoughts and prayers to Mirne and Craig, and Freyja and Kees, and baby boy today. I pray that this baby boy lives to a ripe old age, with his heart beating strong, filled to the brim with his parents love!


In other matters, Mirne nominated me for an Honest Scrap Award. Yay!! Thanks Mirne. I'm so new to blogging, this is quite an honour.

The award is about bloggers who post from their heart, who write from the depths of their soul. In order to accept the award I must nominate seven fellow bloggers as recipients, and then list ten honest and interesting things about myself.

So, my nominees (in no particular order) are:

Catherine W at Between the Snow and Huge Roses

Carol at the Happy Sad Mamma

Molly at the Unlucky Lottery

Jaime at Missing Sydney

Laura at Moments of Pause

Barbara at Burble

OM at Overeducated Mommy.

Now, 10 honest and interesting things about myself...hmm..

1) my first name is Melissa. Not so interesting, particularly if you were born in the late 70s as I was and were one of three Melissas in your grade! But I realized when Mirne nominated me she only knew me as Isla's Mommy, so I thought some of you may be interested in knowing my real name.

2) as a child, and an only and lonely one , I felt deprived that I did not having any pets. Well, I had pets - I had a hamster, a cat, a rabbit, some gold fish, and a turtle, but I didn't have any of them long enough before they died or were given away by my mother to ever form that special human-animal bond. So, I now operate a tiny petting zoo. I have two cats: Essex and Indigo (Indie); and two dogs: a golden retriever named Mickey and a chocolate lab named Finnigan.

3) Essex's full name is Essex Cleopatra. Essex for my university residence, and Cleopatra because, well, it just suits her. She's the only other living lady in our house.

4) Finnigan was named before we met him or were even certain we would get another dog . After seeing a picture of cute brown puppy for sale online (who I decided looked like a Finnigan) and spontaneously visiting the breeder only to find out that puppy had already been sold to another family, Tim and I started sorta seriously contemplating getting a puppy. We visited several litters of golden retrievers and as irresistible as golden puppies are, none them felt right. I then decided I really wanted a brown dog to name Finnigan. We eventually visited a Labrador breeder, and there he was, in the middle of the box of pups, my Finnigan. His name really suits him. His nickname is "Goon".

5) I have several best friends, one of whom I have known since I was two. She is the keeper of my early childhood secrets, a true soul mate, and despite all she knows about me, I can't share this blog with her. She doesn't know it exists. I'm not sure why.

6) I used to treat myself to regular pedicures and now I don't ever want to change the nail polish that is on my toes. I had my last pedicure while I was still pregnant with Isla, about 9 weeks ago, and I wore the polish through my labour and delivery. Despite that the polish is starting to chip and my toe nails are long (gross, right?) I am hesitant to take the polish off. I think I will need to wear this colour forever. I should go find a bottle of this colour for sale somewhere before I start stabbing Tim with my toe nails in bed!

7) the raspberry colour font on the headings on this blog was chosen to match my toenails. It is a colour that will always remind me with Isla. I have this feeling she would like it.

8) the pink and white damask background of this blog was also chosen for Isla. I hadn't purchased much for her before she was born, but I did purchase beautiful crib bedding with a pink and white damask pattern. I had plans to stencil a pale pink damask pattern on one wall of her nursery, with a horizontal stripe and large monogram (IMJ) in chocolate brown in the centre of the wall, over her crib.

9) I desperately want to be a mother to another daughter, natural or adopted, and I hope she loves dolls! I still get the same rush of excitement and wonder as I did as a child when I visit the doll aisle in Toys R Us.

10) I have a shooting star tattooed on my left hip, with the words "Carpe Diem" written underneath. I was 21 years old when I got this tattoo. At the time I believed I had control over my destiny, and if I made a wish (the shooting star) all I had to do was seize the day (carpe diem) to make it come true. I want to keep making wishes and seizing each day, even though I know control is mostly just an illusion.

Monday, August 10, 2009

His Mommy Joined the Club After All

I posted too soon. Now I feel guilty for being so envious.

Why couldn't this happen to me?

Now I'm actually starting to wonder if I prayed hard enough or was deserving enough. I know, I know...stop it...

But seriously? I can hear the "miracle" baby stories now. Dad was praying and then, just like that, he heard a cry. The Lord answered his prayers. His son is alive.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I Am Still Here

I've been quiet for a while now. It's not that I haven't wanted to write, I have. In fact, I've had blog posts floating around in my head often, every day. But somehow every time I sit down to write, I just end up staring at the computer screen, waiting for words that never come.

How do I describe in words how I have been feeling recently? Sure, I'm grieving. But I don't think that one little five letter word - grief - adequately describes all of the emotions I have been feeling, the depths of those emotions. I've actually perused the dictionary looking for a words that could adequately describe these feelings in a way that others who have not experienced the loss of a baby could understand. There really are no words to describe how this feels. I think any attempt to describe this to those untouched by such an experience is futile. And well, I've done enough reading recently to know that you, my online baby loss mama friends, get it, so I don't need to explain myself.

I am so grateful for my ever expanding network of friends from across the world, who, having never met me in person, have offered me so much love, understanding and support. I really do feel this outpouring of love for all of you and your babies. I weep for your sweet little ones almost as much as I weep for my own. I want to turn back the hands of time for all of us, to raise the dead, or at least find some other magical cure to erase your pain and my own. I want to hug you all through cyberspace and I can feel you want to hug me to.

I understand that no one in my "real" world can offer me that same understanding and support. But seriously, is it too much to ask for a little extra compassion? an attempt to understand what Tim and I are going through? or at least to remember that while you may have already moved on and forgotten Isla, or somehow otherwise internalized her death, we're still thinking about her, yearning for her 24 hours a day?!

Tim and I have received much love and support from a few close friends and family members. If any of you are reading, I won't list names for fear of missing someone or offending others, but I hope those of you who I am referring to, know who you are - those of you who still email and call regularly to check up on us, who sent such beautifully written, thoughtful cards, who don't mind spending time with us despite that we are now quite boring. I love you and thank you.

But then there are the other people. I can forgive and understand most of the people who have simply disappeared. Who know Isla has died but who have not called, emailed, said a word. It's okay. I'm really bad at those things too. I've probably missed the death of one of their loved ones. Seriously, no hard feelings.

I can also forgive many of the people who have called or written and said things we have found unhelpful and at times hurtful. Things like "it was God's will" or "you can always have another baby". I get it. They felt they wanted to say something and just didn't know what to say. It's awkward. It's okay, they meant well. I appreciate that these people have reached out to us.

But recently, a few things have happened or been said that have sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Again, I won't name, names. Although it may be obvious from what I am about to write, who I am referring to. If you are reading and offended, I apologize, and I hope you can forgive me for expressing my feelings, just as I have forgiven you. But, I need to get this off my chest.

There are a few very close friends and relatives who are currently pregnant who feel compelled to use Facebook to advertise how happy they are. I understand that these people are just excited about their own blissful state of affairs and want to celebrate (I myself changed my status once or twice back when I naively believed Isla was a sure thing). I also know that nothing that has been written, was written with the intention of hurting me. But seriously, is it to much to ask of my closest friends and relatives (all people who celebrated our wedding with us just 11 months ago and with whom there was much excited discussion about Isla being the same age as their babies), to think about us and refrain from advertising about their still to be born babies on Facebook?! This bothers me on so many levels. First of all, it hurts, badly hurts, that these friends and relatives could be so insensitive to what Tim and I are going through that they could not stop and think before changing their status that we may read it, and feel hurt by it. Secondly, it breaks my heart that these people are seemingly so unaffected by the loss of Isla. A much anticipated playmate for their babies. A cousin. I get that life goes on, and I do not expect anyone to feel her loss in the same way Tim and I have felt it, but I just wish Isla was important enough to these people that they would still be remembering HER and not posting such things out of respect for HER and their own loss of HER. Thirdly, it really bothers me that these people are still so naive as to believe that their babies are such a sure thing that they can publicly advertise in the way they have. Actually, having stillbirth hit so close to home, I think its quite smug. I never want these people to be on this side, the dark side of pregnancy, to really understand how smug it is. But I do wish that they had been affected enough by our experience that they would maybe think twice before so publicly counting their chicken before its hatched.

As I said above, I forgive these people. Some I have felt anger towards, others just more disbelief at the lack of sensitivity, but mostly I am just so hurt. So deeply hurt. Ultimately I guess I have control over whether or not I continue to expose myself to such hurt. I could just stop logging into Facebook, right? But it doesn't really matter whether or not I'm reading. What hurts is knowing these posts have happened. I am being selfish? Self-absorbed? Expecting too much from everyone else? Maybe. But this is how I feel.

There have also recently been a few things said to Tim and I directly that have knocked us down. I fear that by saying too much online that I will do some irreparable damage our already tenuous support system. But what I will say is that members of our family, CLOSE members, the kind on the same branch of the family tree, have begun giving both Tim and I the impression that it is time we start moving on from our grief. That we should be getting back to normal by now. It was actually stated that, "its enough now".

Five weeks ago, five short weeks (or five very long weeks if you were walking in our shoes) our baby girl died. Our daughter. Our child. How the hell are we supposed to feel right now if not grief stricken, utterly devastated, consumed by our sorrow?! WE LOST A CHILD. How much more clearly can we explain this to people? She was not just a fetus. She was not just someone we never met. She was our daughter!

Having to defend our grief to these people is so infuriating. I feel as though by expecting us to move on already these relatives are diminishing our loss, their own loss, and the life of my precious baby girl. Discussing this is actually so emotionally exhausting that I really can't go on. I can't explain it right now, or express my feeling in any coherent manner.

Anyway, this is why I have been so quiet over the past week or so. My emotions are overwhelming, my head spinning, and I just can't find words.

When I started out with this blog I wanted it to be a place both celebrate Isla (precious, beautiful, baby Isla) and share my journey through grief and hopefully towards healing. I'm walking it - this weird twisty, one step forward, two steps back path through what is now my life, my life after Isla. I hope to candidly share both my steps forward and steps back. Only, sometimes the steps back are actually more like backward stumbles to the ground, and I just don't have the energy to put into words my swarming emotions.

To my baby loss mama friends, please keep reading and posting your comments. I love them. And even though I can't always find the energy to comment on your posts, I'm here, reading.

To my real world friends and relatives, if you are reading this, please go easy on us right now. We need you now more than ever.

PS - Isla died on a Tuesday. A few days after my last post I realized it was Wednesday, July 29th when I wrote it. I have been so disoriented that I thought when I was writing it was a Tuesday. It bothered me that I could lose track of time like that. Bothered me more when August 1st came and went I and I didn't even realize I had missed the one month mark of her birth. I'm not really beating myself up about it. In a way its a good thing I am not dwelling on calendar days. But I need to set things straight. Isla Michaela Johnston died around 6:45 p.m. (I didn't think to look at the clock at the exact moment) on Tuesday, June 30th, 2009. She was born at 10:44 p.m. (thankfully my amazing delivery nurse Maya did think to look at the clock at that moment) on July 1st, 2009.