Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Strong Ones

I've had a lot of people over the past few months tell me that I'm strong or brave. I appreciate the compliment, and I would like to be both of those things, and I honestly even sometimes feel that I am, but every time I hear that I feel unworthy of the praise. I've had people tell me, "I could never do that." And part of me always wonders what they're talking about that I've done that they couldn't do. Lose a child? Because the truth is I couldn't either, but what choice did I have?

I'm just trying to survive, just like everyone else. Losing my son... That's just my life. I don't get to choose how much of it to tackle each day. It's just there, waiting. There is no way but through.

The real strong ones are each of you. You, who are willing to step into my life for a moment even though you don't have to. You, who say Liam's name. Who offer condolences in public. Who ask how I'm really doing. Even just the fact that you continue to read this blog, even though it's not the feel-good blog of the year. You don't have to be here. And yet you are. Thank you.

You cannot know how much it means to me. I know it's scary. I know it's heartbreaking. I know it makes you uncomfortable. And I know you feel like you are taking a risk with every word you say.

So thank you. Thank you for stopping me to tell me you heard about my baby. Thank you for asking how it happened and what my birth was like. Thank you for allowing me to start sentences with, "When I was pregnant" without it suddenly becoming awkward or morbid. Thank you for letting me know I'm still loved and accepted in this world even though it all seems to have changed on me. Thank you for letting me know that part doesn't change.

Thank you. Please, keep it up. I need friends like you.

Hope and Gratitude

One idea that I've struggled with since Liam's death has been whether I'll find more happiness from being grateful or hopeful. I have often considered these virtues at odds with each other. I can be grateful for the things I do have: a wonderful husband, supportive friends and family, and the sweet short time we got to spend with Liam. Or I can be hopeful... and if I'm hoping for anything, that suggests that I want something to change. I want to be pregnant again, and have another baby, and I want that baby to live... doesn't that imply that what I have right now isn't good enough? That I still want more? Does that invalidate my gratitude?

I talked to Kam about this and he suggested that you can be hopeful for some things and grateful for other things. And I think he's right. But it was small comfort to me. To me it's all related. Am I grateful for my motherhood the way it is, or am I hopeful that I'll have more opportunities (and more conventional opportunities) to be a mother?

The most common question for me is whether I'm going to hope to be pregnant or not. I don't know what makes me so single-minded that I can't hope to be pregnant and focus on other good things at the same time... but that seems to be the case. I can assume I won't get pregnant and devote the month to looking for service opportunities that would make Liam proud I'm his mommy, or I can hope I will be pregnant, and spend the entire month mentally preparing for that possibility. In neither case do I forget about Liam. I never forget about Liam. But I wonder what this means for him, too. Is it best for me to mother him by preparing for his sibling, or by finding ways to enjoy my only child?

I prayed hard this morning over this question. It might seem silly, but it bothers me, and that means it's not silly to my Heavenly Father. I tried to pay attention to answers today, and I feel like through a few different lessons I started to put together pieces of what He wants me to understand.

Basically, what I started to realize is that everything changes when I have an eternal perspective. When I keep in mind that the way I am experiencing life right now isn't really all there is to it, I have every reason to be grateful, and hopeful.

I am grateful that Liam is safe, and taken care of. I am grateful that my God knows me, and loves me, and wants good things for me. I am grateful that because He wants good things for me, good things can become mine. I am grateful that I can be with Liam again.

But at the same time, because these blessings rely on things I cannot see...

I am hopeful that Liam is safe, and taken care of. I am hopeful that my God knows me, and loves me, and wants good things for me. I am hopeful that because He wants good things for me, good things can become mine. I am hopeful that I can be with Liam again.

I have faith in these things. And because of faith, I can have both gratitude and hope, because faith makes them the same.

So should I be hopeful I'll get pregnant this month, or prepare not to be? It probaby doesn't matter. As long as I'm not giving up, the Lord will bless me in His time. As much as I want things to work out according to my own schedule, I know that much is not realistic. And it's actually beautiful that it isn't. I love this quote by Francis Chan, (though I've never read the book it comes from...)

"Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending."

I believe there is so much more to time than what we can comprehend in our mortal experience. When we look at the stars, we see thousands of distinct moments from throughout billions of years of history. The light we see from each star is a different age than the light from the next, because each star is a different distance from us. But to all our senses, we are experiencing the present, only one moment in time. Only through centuries of study, and really forcing ourselves to think about the situation differently, are we able to understand the truth of how complex time is in space.

But God knows all of this. He knows more than we can imagine there being a need to know. So should He not know what timing is best for me? Should He not know how to make things right? Is He not capable of solving every problem I've ever imagined, and even those I've been naive to?

I know He is. And I know that because He loves me, if I obey Him, He will. In His time.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mothering Liam

Today a good friend of mine told me she sometimes wants to ask me how Liam is doing, because she feels like I know. It was the most wonderful thing I've heard in a long time.

This month I've decided to focus more on being Liam's mommy and less on whether I get pregnant again. I have one baby. Even though I miss him a lot, I still have him. Because my friend is right. If you asked me about how Liam is doing, I would have something to say, because I do know. Not 100%, but I know enough.

The harder part has been figuring out what that means for me. What do I do because I'm Liam's mom? I can't hold him, or rock him to sleep, or watch him grow. And that is really frustrating, to say the very least. But in the past couple of weeks I've felt close to him in a new way. Being close to him used to be just crying over him and longing to be with him. And I still cry. Often. But there's a new closeness that comes in moving on. Which seems like the most backwards thing to say ever. Maybe because moving on means something different than what a lot of people think it does. I'm not talking about "getting over it" or even "letting go." And I'm not talking about moving on without Liam. I'm just talking about moving on. Going forward in a good direction, instead of staying in the same place. Doing something with my life instead of letting it end when Liam died.

There was a time for grieving. In fact, there is still a time for grieving, and it's usually every 2 or 3 nights just before I fall asleep, and a few random moments in between, and probably at least 20 minutes on every major holiday. But the time for binge watching Friends is past. The time for refusing any food that isn't in the shape of a milkshake needs to come to an end. And the time for ignoring anyone outside my immediate circle is long gone.

Now is the time for beautiful music and sweet children's stories. For reaching out. For speaking up. For proclaiming that my son lived and I'm glad he did, not just to the people around me, but to myself. I need that reminder more than anyone. Now is the time for pursuing dreams. Now is the time to let the world see how much more beautiful it is because Liam was in it.

I have spent a lot of time over the past week or two researching ways I can get involved in supporting the baby loss community. It has been surprisingly difficult to find the thing that I feel like I need to get involved in. I am constantly asking myself what this community needs that Liam and I could give. And although I haven't found it yet, the more I look, the closer I feel. Closer to who I'm supposed to be as a mother, and amazingly, closer to Liam than I was before.

Which makes sense... I am better because Liam was here. Anything I do because I know him will really just be an extension of him.

Which I know isn't a new idea, really. People talk about legacies all the time. But it just makes so much sense now--I don't know that I could possibly explain it any better than what's already been written by hundreds of authors more worthy than me. But to experience it first hand, it just makes so much more sense.

And maybe there's something different about caring for your child's legacy. I imagine this is probably what it feels like to coach your kid's soccer team, or join the PTA. You're just so excited to be involved in something that matters to him. That's what I dream about anyway.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what I want for my future. Or, let's be honest, a lot of time worrying about the future. But last week I tried an exercise that asked me to imagine where I'd want to be in five years. Something realistic, but optimistic, too. And of course I first thought about wanting more children. Healthy living children. But as I thought about it more, I realized that would never be enough. Having more children doesn't fix my need to mother Liam, because Liam can never be replaced. And time isn't going to take that away. I will always need something that ties me to Liam. All of my life.

So, I guess, there are blessings that come out of not being pregnant right now. I have time to just focus on my first baby. To really get to know him, and learn how to mother him. To get really good at understanding him before I try to start learning another baby. Every baby deserves attention. I don't want to rob Liam of that. Or baby #2.

(But if the pregnancy Karma gods are listening, I still really really want baby #2. And I'd totally be okay with that happening any time. Okay, I know that's not really how it works... But you can never be too careful.)

But it really is exciting. That this goal doesn't require any charting temperatures or peeing on sticks or crossing fingers to get started. This is mine, right now. Because Liam is my baby, right now.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Morning Musings

I thought that after losing Liam it would be harder to see other people with young babies, but it hasn't been. Seeing pregnant women is still sometimes hard, but I rarely get jealous of other people's babies. Because they're not mine. They are adorable and they make me happy and sad at the same time. But they don't fill that void, they only soften my ache.

Then I look at my pictures of Liam and I think he's the cutest baby I've ever seen. He just looks right. And I know I must be a mother, because really, there are so many things about those pictures that are not right. But my baby is in them, and that's all that matters. Looking at those pictures used to make me cry. But now I look at them frequently just to remember. Just to be reminded of what's right and true. That I really do have a baby and that I really did give birth to him and hold him and look at his tiny face. Sometimes it all seems to heartbreaking to be real. But it not being real just feels wrong. Because it is wrong. It did happen. It is real. I really do have a baby. Who's just not here.

I'm an incredibly impatient person. Maybe that's why I'm made to wait so long to be with my son again. It's why I still don't like to see pregnant women. Because although I have a baby, I want to have him now, and part of me still thinks I should.

I also ache for my future babies. Not quite as strongly. They weren't here and gone again like Liam was. But I feel the same way about them being mine, and no other baby will fill the spot I have for them. And I long to see their beautiful faces. And I will admit, I hope they are biologically mine, so I can see Liam's face in theirs, but I'm not banking on it. I'm not giving up on it either, though. And I haven't learned patience quite yet.

I'm back in the two week wait again. Kam and I decided that after last month's loss we'd kind of take a break and not try so hard this month. Of course, for me that doesn't mean any less worrying or obsessing. It just means having less data to consider in my analysis. Which actually helps a little bit. But I am still me.

We took a vacation this weekend for Father's Day. The puppies are at grandma's house, and we went up to Kamas to do some camping, and then came back when we remembered that we don't like sleeping on the ground all that much. But it's been a really good weekend. I've genuinely enjoyed it. It's nice to have fun again. And I don't even feel guilty. Sometimes being very honest and factual with myself is what helps. This is what my life is now. No matter how much I don't like it. But that doesn't mean everything from here on out is going to be bad, either. Or that I should treat it that way.

I am a mother of a son who died. Nothing will ever change that. Yes, maybe I will be able to have more babies, and maybe they will be healthy and live long lives. And I shouldn't give up on that yet. But I will always be Liam's mother, too. And I need to find a way to go on living with that. Not despite it. To keep being Liam's mom, because I am and I can't pretend to be something that I'm not.

I'm not entirely sure how to do that yet. But it includes having fun vacations with Liam's daddy. So, I get one point on that front I think.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Hope Perspective

The events of the past two and a half months have tainted my optimism. I know, logically, that things sometimes still work out. But I also know that statistically, Liam shouldn't have died, and statistically, most subsequent pregnancies after loss are successful, but mine wasn't, so it's easy to believe that luck isn't on my side. And when luck isn't on your side, it's easier to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when you're wrong.

So that's what I was doing about this volunteer position at the hospital. I applied on Wednesday last week with the expectation that I would never hear back from them. I mentioned the position to only a few people and quickly put together a back up plan. But the truth is, this is really important to me.

So when I got a call back from the hospital this morning asking me to interview, I was shocked.

The only problem with expecting the worst is that the smallest good news seems really big. So now my heart is pulling in two directions. Hopefulness at getting this position, and preparation for disappointment.

Honestly, I am more excited than I have been...  probably since Liam died. Which is refreshing. Until the voice in my head that doesn't think about what it's saying blurts out, "This fixes everything!"

No it doesn't. Stupid.

But it does feel like where I'm supposed to be.

Ugh, I want so badly to be excited, I'm gonna cry.

At work.


But they called me back. I never thought that would happen.

But I still have to interview. What am I going to say when they ask me why I want to volunteer? What if my answer isn't good enough?

I want to tell them that I want something good to come out of all of this bad. That if I can help other people because of what I've gone through, some how, then it's almost like Liam is helping them, and that's what I'd want for him, because that's who he is.

But what if they think I'm still too emotional or too deep in my grief to help other people? What if my reason is too selfish? I mean, it is kind of selfish. But don't they have a right to know? They need volunteers who can actually help them, and if they think I can't do it... I mean, I can, but... well, what if they're right?

Maybe it's just not time yet. But I'm sick of it not being time yet. It was time for Liam to go. Can't it be time for something good already?

Ugh. I want this so bad. I hope that's okay...

Stupid death. Makes emotions so complicated now.

Happy is guilty. And excited is scared. And sad is safe. And longing is breathing...

I guess that's not an emotion, but that's what it is.

But that's exactly what I want to fix. I don't want the result of Liam's life to be heartache. At least, I don't want that to be all. He's special. He's my son. The world needs to be better because he was here.

Ugh. This blog post might just be more evidence that I'm not ready for this volunteer position. Maybe they can just put me in the gift shop? I swear I don't cry all the time...

But it just felt so good to be excited again this morning. To have some hope for something new and good in my life. And to feel something old and familiar. Something I thought I'd given up.

There was a moment before the fear set in when I was just filled with it. Where there was just excitement and nothing else. I guess regardless of what happens this time, it's nice to know I can feel that way at all.

Friday, June 12, 2015


It's baby season. Facebook makes that abundantly clear. I try not to be jealous. But it's hard not to remember that if life had gone according to our plan, we'd be holding a baby in our arms right now. Or at least pregnant and expecting Liam in September. Or if nothing else... pregnant again with hope. But none of those things is happening right now.

It's not just the jealousy. It's a reminder of isolation. Of disappointment. Of failure.

And it's even a reminder that I've been the source of bad news for 2+ months while other people have good news to share. It's difficult to describe how that makes a person feel. Like a disease, is probably a fair description.

With all of those emotions, it's easy to discount any of my accomplishments thus far in life. What was meant to be, in many ways, the capstone of my life is now a whisper and a shadow. I have no proof of the moment that made me a mother.

In some ways, it helps to remember the unrelated accomplishments in my life, and to try to give myself credit for them. I graduated college in 3 years. I have a good job that I enjoy, and that I'm good at. And I try to plan new adventures that I will enjoy even though I can't have kids yet. But it's impossible to separate myself from the identity of the mother I always hoped I would be.

The good news is that I don't have to. I am a mother. And everything I've accomplished up to this point echoes that.

I graduated college in 3 years. Because I wanted the best chance at being able to support my family if I ever needed to. Because I wanted a picture of myself in my cap and gown to show my children someday. And because I crazily thought that somehow I'd get pregnant in the first year and a half of our marriage and didn't want to have to give school my time when I had a baby.

I have a good job that I enjoy, and that I'm good at. A good job, but not incredible, because I wanted to support Kam's career so that someday I can stay home with my kids. One that I'm good at, because I knew if I was valuable enough, I could insist on working from home so I could always be with my baby. And one that I enjoy, but don't adore, because I chose to support my family rather than pursuing riskier dreams.

I have things to be proud of, even though I don't have a baby in my arms. I own a house. I make a salary. I can finally play "Liz on Top of the World" on piano. But with the exception of my marriage to Kam*, I can't find pride in any of these things without acknowledging that I did them for my motherhood. For the sake of my family.

Because although the mark he left is easy to miss, I carried and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. And that's worth being proud of.


*I married Kam because I love him, and there's no way I'd ever stop being proud of that accomplishment.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why You Can Never Say the Right Thing to a Woman in Grief

Since losing Liam, I've seen a lot of articles and lists like "15 Things NOT to Say to a Bereaved Mother," or "The Worst Thing to Say to a Woman Who Has Had a Miscarriage." Most of the time, as I read through these, I find one or two items that leave me puzzled. "Why would anyone be bothered by that?" I think to myself. It wasn't until I was talking to a woman who has suffered a similar tragedy to mine that I realized I had a list of my own. I told her about an experience reading a pamphlet from the hospital two weeks after Liam died and getting so angry over the phrase "new normal." And I figured she must understand what I meant, because we'd been through the same thing, and then she stopped me and said,

"Wait. I don't understand why you were bothered by that."

So I explained that I felt like it meant my life was always going to be sad from now on and I was just going to have to live with it. And she said something to the effect of, "Oh. That makes sense. I was going to ask, wouldn't you want things to be different after an experience like that? I would hate to go through that and not have it change me at all."

I hadn't thought about that. All I was thinking about was how old normal was happy and now I wasn't happy and so new normal must be living in despair for the rest of my life but, as the pamphlet suggested, I'd "never get over it. Just get used to it." I had no intention of getting used to being utterly miserable. But that's what I was at the time.

After this experience I realized we must all be thinking about this differently. That's the thing about grief. It doesn't make any sense. It's emotional, not logical. So one day it might not bother me that someone believes I'll get pregnant someday. Because that day I'm hopeful, and I think they might be right.

But the next day if someone tells me the same exact thing, my honest reaction might be, "How the **** do you know?" Because, honestly, you don't know. And neither do I. And if somehow you did know and I didn't, that just wouldn't be okay with me. Because this is my life and I should know better than anyone what is going to happen in it. But I don't.

And also because I need to be realistic right now instead of hopeful. I need a back up plan in case everything goes terribly wrong. Again.

But mostly because part of grieving is being angry, and you happen to be the nearest outlet for my anger. I'm sorry.

And mostly, mostly it's because nothing you say will ever bring my son back to me.

But sometimes you do say something that helps. And no one can ever know what that is going to be at the time. For me it was the acquaintance in church who put her arm around me and said, "It gets better, but you never forget." Because that day I was struggling to believe those two things could coexist. And the Bishop's counselor who told us, just hours after we saw that terrible ultrasound, that we could later have the opportunity to raise Liam after this life. Because I had no idea that was even possible. And the friend at work who told me he liked the picture on my desk, and shocked me so much that all I got out was a quick, "What?" To which he pointed and nervously replied, "Cute feet."

And sometimes the words coming out of your mouth aren't helpful at all, but it's okay, because you said something and that's more than anyone else has done all day.

So please don't stop saying something. These lists of things not to say to grieving parents make good points about how grief works, but they are also mistakenly scaring people into believing that if you want to talk about grief you have to say the "right" thing. There is no right thing, because nothing you say will ever fix what's actually hurting. But there are helpful things, and hurtful things. Use your head. Be real. And give up on "fixing" anything.

And when you try your best and the person you hoped to comfort only ends up angry, take a note, but don't take it personally. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

New Fear

I wrote this post on June 7, but have taken my time in deciding to publish it.


In losing Liam I had one of my worst fears realized. Today I had another of those fears realized.

I lost another pregnancy today. I'd only really known I was pregnant for about 4 days. My miscarriage this morning just felt like my period had come, and if I hadn't taken that early pregnancy test, I probably never would have known that wasn't what it was. But I had been feeling pregnancy symptoms early on, and my cycles were still unpredictable, so I went ahead and took a test and saw those two lines. I couldn't believe it could happen to us again so quickly.

That first day I was a wreck. I was so relieved to be pregnant again, but I was just terrified of losing another baby. Honestly, one of my greatest fears was of losing this pregnancy early and not knowing whether it was a baby or not.

We went to the temple that night and I got some comfort there. The next day I decided I was going to be hopeful instead of afraid. I very cautiously started calling whatever was inside me a baby. I still wasn't sure whether it was, but I figured it was better to have my own heart broken than to deny a baby's existence if a baby did in fact exist. I figured if I did lose this pregnancy early, I would just have to figure that all out when it happened.

And then it did happen.

I don't understand why this had to happen this way. I don't understand why God is allowing me to go through this. I don't understand why my hopes were allowed to rise just to be crushed a couple days later. I don't understand why after things have been so bad lately, God allowed them to get worse.

Kam and I talked about whether we think we lost another baby. We agreed that when a spirit enters a body is probably not so much about any exact moment, like conception, or the first heartbeat, or a certain number of weeks as it is about feeling that spirit. It's probably different for everyone, and probably only parents can tell whether they're missing a child or not. For us, it doesn't feel like anyone is missing this time. It doesn't feel like it did with Liam when we knew we were a family of three and that what used to be with us was suddenly gone. But my heart is still broken.

I had hoped to meet that spirit, and now there's no one to meet. I had thought I'd have Liam in September, and that was taken away. And then I'd thought we'd have another baby, a living baby, in February, and now that's not happening either. I just don't know. I don't know how I can ever look at a positive pregnancy test again and honestly believe a living baby will come of it. I don't know if I can even believe we ever will have a living baby. And if we do, I have no way of knowing how many losses I have to go through before that will happen, or which pregnancy will be the one that sticks.

It was easier to believe Liam's death wasn't my fault. This loss feels more personal. This loss seems more like a label. I'm the woman who can't bring a pregnancy to term. I'm the woman who can't have living babies. I'm the poor woman no one wants to be.

I honestly don't know what to do next. I'm writing this only because I can't imagine a single reason for why I'd have to go through this if it's not to be able to empathize with other women who have felt the pain of an early loss. That used to be something I couldn't imagine. Unfortunately now I can. My heart goes out to you ladies. I don't know how to find words for this kind of pain.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Reasons Why I'm Afraid to Get Pregnant Again
  1. Losing another baby.
  2. Feeling like I'm replacing Liam.
  3. Other people assuming I'm okay now that I'm pregnant again, or once I have a living baby.
  4. Taking care of a baby while grieving my first baby.
  5. Making people uncomfortable when they ask whether this is my first or how many kids I have.
  6. Never having a living baby.
  7. Losing my baby at any age after birth.
  8. Being a bad mother to either of my babies.
  9. Not enjoying my pregnancy and regretting missing out on it.
  10. Admitting to people that I'm pregnant again this soon, especially at work, where I had to take a lot of time off.
  11. People assuming that I didn't take enough time to grieve and I'm making a mistake.
  12. Making Liam's life seem any less real.
  13. Being able to keep up with a rambunctious child after this sobering experience.
  14. Becoming a helicopter parent.
  15. Loving one of my children more, or causing them to think so.
  16. Losing a pregnancy early and having to deal with that loss without knowing as much about the baby as I did with Liam (and struggling to know whether it was a baby yet).
  17. People not talking about Liam anymore, or forgetting to include him in our family.