Monday, September 21, 2015

Remembering Bennet: An Invitation

Eleven months.

Today marks eleven full months my baby boy was born sleeping.

It is a bizarre concept, to be born dead. 

I should be planning a first birthday party. Instead, I'm planning a memorial. 

While Bennet was dying and we were in Hobart undergoing a multitude of tests, scans and lots and lots and LOTS of waiting, we spent a lot of time at the ocean. Mainly looking out at fishing boats and the vastness of the ocean. Not knowing what was going to happen, except that our much-wanted second son was probably going to die very soon. Trying in any way to bring some sort of calm to the new chaos and awfulness that had slammed into our lives. 
One of my journal pages.
With a note to Bennet in the boat.
The ocean still reminds us of our Ben. 

The steady waves. The deep blue. The freshness. The openness. All the time we spent looking into it, praying for his life and the decisions we might have to make.

And so we decided that, for Bennet's first birthday, we would release paper boats. 

Something we can make with our own hands. Because there is healing in doing. 

Something we can write little notes on to him, or prayers to God. Because there is healing in being heard. 

(The added benefit of it being that they have little to no impact on the environment as they will break down fairly quickly in the water)

And, since a great deal of our support, and Bennet's family, lives far overseas, we decided that we would create a page where anyone who wants to remember Bennet with us can, by making and releasing their own paper boats and sharing their photos with us on his birthday. 

And because I know I am not alone in loosing a baby (statistics are 1 in 4 will loose a baby through miscarriage. Statistics on still birth are harder to find because not every state can agree on a butt-load of things I'll not go in to here), and there is so much silence around pregnancy loss, I wanted to give other's an opportunity to remember their own babies as well. 

So I created a Facebook page for Bennet's birthday, for anyone who would like to remember Bennet with us on what should be his first birthday, or their own baby gone too soon. 

We will also be raising money for Bears of Hope. It is a non-profit organisation that supports families who have lost a baby at any age or gestation. One member in particular has been of so much support to both Phillip and me and is one of the reasons we're still so... sane. And really healing. I don't have words for what this organisation means to us, or to describe the help and hope that it has brought us this past year. So we are raising money so Bears of Hope can continue to help care for families in the amazing way they do. If you wish to donate, the link here leads to Bennet's page. 

So this is my invitation, to anyone who reads it, to remember our baby boy with us, on his birthday, October 21st.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Prayer Flag Project

August 19th is the Day of Hope.

A day meant to remember children who have died.

I remember every day. Not just Ben, but so many other babies.

But the purpose of my participation in this wasn't just to remember, but to do.

There is a lot of healing in doing.

Making the flag, for me, wasn't about a finished product. It was about the journey in making it. It was about collecting the materials that reminded me of Ben, developing an idea, a reason, a picture, of something that was just... BEN.

I found a second hand baby swaddle. White. Almost brand new. Nothing special about it. Just a plain white muslin swaddling blanket, like the kind I used when Simon was born.

So I bought it. And I cried. Because I never got a chance to swaddle my little Bennet.

Other things I found either second hand or had at home already (being a collector of so many odds and ends). I didn't want to buy anything new for this. For me it was in the looking. The finding. The scrounging through meaninglessness and silly things and finding... him. Being able to see Bennet everywhere.

I ended up with a nice little pile of things.

That lovely white swaddle. Some fluffy white yarn. An old felted scarf that was a beautiful shade of tropical ocean blue and just kind of fun to touch. Odd bits of lace and ribbon. Shells. Driftwood. Glitter. Coloured paper.

And slowly an idea formed.

When Bennet was dying, and Phillip and I were stuck at the hospital in Hobart waiting for more and more tests, we were encouraged to get out of the hospital and walk around. We ended up spending most of our time on the waterfront, staring at the ocean, breathing in salt air. Wondering what was going to happen.

When we learned, a week later, two days after we go home, that his heart had finally stopped beating, we again ended up at the ocean. This time wandering a sandy beach picking up shells and one lonely piece of brown sea glass. Planning his funeral.

The ocean is a calming place. And ten months later, it still reminds me of him.

So I tied these things in to my little flag. The ocean, some shells, some paper stars. His name. All whimsical, childlike, and ocean-y.Something that completely reminded me of Bennet. Something that makes me feel like he's still part of me. Still part of my life. He's gone from me, but not forever.

The finished flag is beautiful. I held it and wept, and imagined what it would be like to have him here, nearly 10 months old, playing with the pretty dancing ribbon.

I placed it on his grave and sobbed. In the process of making, doing, searching, and most of all, remembering, I found help with healing, help with connecting to my grief and to my son. Taking that white swaddle and cutting it up and dying it (food coloring works better on skin than it does fabric. I just used watered down acrylics eventually to get the color I wanted). Stitching his name. Sewing paper stars. Weaving twine together. Sewing bits of ribbon, lace, and shells together. Using my hands. Making something for him. In memory of him.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Snow Day!

Phillip took this.
He's the only consistently early riser in our family.
For the first time since I moved here, we had snow at our elevation. Snow that STUCK. About two beautiful white fluffy inches of it.

Apparently, it was the first time in ten years that its snowed all the way down to sea level.

Phillip had the day off work, and we dropped any sort of schedule we keep to just enjoy the rarity of the snow.

We started out by putting on boots and coats while we were still in our pyjamas, before breakfast, and ran around outside enjoying Simon's enthusiasm over seeing snow for the first time he can remember.

After breakfast, we bundled up and were outside right away again. We were outside as long as we could stand. Snowballs were thrown, snow was piled up, we practised running and sliding on it, and Phillip even made a little snowman. We enjoyed every moment outside until little fingers and even big toes were red and nearly too cold to feel anything.

Inside again, warm with our roaring fire, I made the boys some hot coco to warm up. Simon's first introduction to "hot choc".

It is REALLY coming down!

Even Ippo wanted to come out and play in the snow
Side note: This is a really awesome cat
We have no snow shovels. Simon made do.

The beginnings of a snowman

Simon's snowman.
Or snow-pile.
How many snowballs can you hold?

Phillip's finished snowman

Warmin' up with hot coco

Oh yeah, that's some good stuff!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Unexpected Pauses in Life

It seems that every time I make a new commitment to blog more regularly something happens to prevent that.

Early in July, Phillip sprained his ankle. With a warning that it might be a stress fracture (SPOILER: It wasn't).

Not a bad sprain. But since he works as a furniture removalist (aka a mover), it pretty much put him out of commission as far as work went for the last month. It also put him out of commission as far as household duties and taking care of the toddlerino went, too. (Also, the fear that it might be a fracture and it took a few weeks to get an MRI for it).

Now, I do the bulk of housework. As in... nearly everything. Because I am good at it. I am the best at running our household. I will brag about this because I seriously kick butt at running our household. It's just my thing. Most of the time, I honestly enjoy it. Phillip helps out by playing with Simon when, at the end of the night, dishes are being washed, counters are being wiped, floors are being swept, food is cooked or put away, and laundry is hung up to dry (we have neither a dishwasher nor a clothes dryer).*

(Only, lets be really honest here, it's not helping out. Simon is HIS child too. He's not giving me a hand, he's having some much needed one-on-one time with his son, They BOTH love and need it.) (No this is not insulting him, it's a simple truth about being a parent).

But that still means I'm not chopping meat and veggies and using a hot stove with a busy and curious toddler under foot, afraid I'll slip and chop off his fingers, or something will fall off the stove and burn him. Or I'll trip on him or his cars and stab myself (I can't be the only mom who imagines that happening, can I?).

The last month, with Phillip incapacitated and not able to play with Simon in the way they are used to, nor help out with anything around the house, gave me approximately zero time to do almost anything not deemed necessary. On top of that, we had several "special" days (his birthday at the very end of  June, then my birthday, followed by our wedding anniversary) that passed, and, because we're still heavily grieving the loss of our son, made for some super fun weeks of emotional messes.

Basically, I was an emotional wreck all month and just exhausted, physically and emotionally.

But, Phillip is now doing well. Ish (Sprains take a long time to heal). He's back at work on light duties and able to do more with Simon, though I'm still doing all the heavy lifting chores I wouldn't normally be doing (I actually really enjoy hauling in wood for the fire) on top of my regulars. And I'm setting out some self-care plans so I don't just... loose my mind. But THAT is all for another post.


Assuming nothing else prevents me from writing.

Because I actually have a list of things I want to share. An actual in-real-life written down LIST.

*Phillip DOES help around the house with more than just watching Simon. But I'm not taking the time to list all the jobs each of us do, and sometimes we switch some of them. He'll actually admit that I do most of the "house stuff". Just be assured he is an awesome husband who helps out, and he reads and edits everything I post. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015


"What do you want for your birthday?" my husband has been asking me for the last few weeks.

I will turn 30 on Monday.

Which is supposed to be a big thing for some reason, turning 30. And I've got nothing planned. I don't know what I want really.

There are always THINGS I could use, things I want.

I had hoped to maybe fly home to the U.S., celebrate with my family and close friends. Nothing big, just being together, talking, hanging out, good drinks, brownies not cake, because I don't really like cake all that much. (Well, I don't like frosting. Cake is fantastic, frosting... not so much. FUDGEY brownies, too, not cakey ones.)

But instead, I will be home in Australia, alone with my husband and one of our sons. Missing the other one. And maybe eating salmon and having a glass of wine.

I don't really want to celebrate this year, being so far away from so many people I love. The last 3 years I haven't been overly eager to celebrate my birthday anyway because it just feels weird celebrating in the winter instead of summer, and without my family and friends. But THIS year, this year is harder.

This year, I will not be having a very happy birthday.

Which might seem like a really pessimistic, maybe even selfish statement to make.

But you see, one of my biggest dreams, one of the things I have always ALWAYS wanted was a house full of little boys. Kind of like Jo, from Little Women. I just wanted to raise lots of little boys.

The moment I found out Bennet was a boy I already knew he was dying, and my mind still played through the joy of what years of having TWO boys might be like! I hated my brain for doing that to me.

So my birthday is now one of "those" days. One of those days that should be filled with more celebration and laughter because we should have another little boy with us. One of those days that should have more hair pulling, more sibling fights and rivalry, more smiles, more giggles, more belly kisses and happy good-mornings filled with two little boy's smiles. And one of my boys is not here. And I miss him more, if possible, on days like this.

Days like this, I don't want anything but to have him back alive. Days like this I would move heaven and earth if I could see him smile, hear him giggle, hell, even just hear him breath. Just once.

Days like this I hold my living son a little tighter, I smile through tears as we play together, I give him extra hugs and belly kisses, extra stories and songs. Days like this I have joyful moments, maybe even happy ones, but they are not happy days. Days like this I appreciate more what I do have, and miss more what I don't.

Friday, July 3, 2015

I Remember

I remember the smell of my grandmother's kitchen.

It smelled cold. Comfortable.

Clean, with fresh hot coffee brewing. A faint scent of dish soap in the background, because even though she had a dishwasher, she still washed a lot of dishes by hand.

Cold, and somehow so so inviting.

And her pantry. Oh, how I adored the smell of it! Spices, herbs, crackers, bread, nuts, dried fruit, and cereal. It mixed into the most wonderful homey smell. A smell that, if I ever catch a hint of it anywhere else, instantly transports me back to that pantry, where she would stock Cheerios when I visited because she remembered I liked them. And always had Shredded Wheat on hand. Where she let me try, and then inhale, dried dates and mango during every visit.

A place she kept tins of cookies, because it was usually Christmas when we came to visit. Snickerdoodles are what I mostly remember. She made the best snickerdoodles.

All of us visiting would gather in that large kitchen. Around the table, at the counter, or in the living room that had no separation from the kitchen.

It was a large, happy, loving gathering place when the family got together.

Cold, and so so full of warmth.

My grandmother was generous. So very generous and wonderful.

She taught me to knit.

I still have two pairs of knitting needles she gave me when I was young. Two of her "extra" pairs. It's a skill I have been able to grow in and use to give to others. Something that, every time I make something, reminds me of her, sitting with some project in a basket and her hands while she watched the news.

She taught me how to sew, and I still think of her every time I sit at the machine, or hold a tissue paper pattern in my hands, because she helped me sew my very first piece of clothing at a fairly young age. She guided my hands around the curves of the arm holes as I sewed, helped me pin the thick denim fabric together.

She taught me that it's ok to say "no" to gifts and requests, because respecting yourself and standing up for yourself is more important than trying to please everyone else. And she never took offence if I did tell her no to something.

She taught me that experiences and people are far more important and treasured than things.

She taught me love.

It's been almost 2 months since she died. And so much longer than that since the surgery that changed her.

I had to miss her funeral, because we live so far away. It hurt so much to not be there, to not be with my family to help pay tribute to her life and lay her to rest, to not hurt with the family who was missing her and hurting.
So I honour her in my own way, by continuing to use the values and skills she taught me.

My grandmother, my Grandmom, was a wonderful woman.

I miss her so much.

4 years ago
The last time I saw her

Thursday, June 18, 2015

But I DO have Faith

When someone breaks a leg, gets a concussion, has a cold, you never hear of that person being told, "just pray about it, have more faith, then you'll be healed IMMEDIATELY!"

That would be silly. We all know that broken bones take time to mend. Concussions take time to heal. And colds, well, chicken soup, a vaporiser, and, again, time.

For some reason, this same logic, that time and proper care help heal, does not seem to apply to loosing a child.

Or mental illnesses that may accompany that loss (well, mental illnesses in general).

A mixed media "can't sleep so might as well
be productive" piece from my journal.
Instead, the parents of the child that died are, quite often, offered platitudes like, "It was God's will", "He has something to teach you", "just pray, trust, you'll get through this."

As if loosing a child is something that can be patched up like a broken leg, and cared for like a common cold.

"Don't let it control you" is offered when you confess that you have severe anxiety about being left alone, or are constantly worried about your spouse, living child, or other family members. "Pray, trust", when you have PTSD-like reactions in the middle of stores because you see an ambulance pass by or hear a newborn cry.

I have faith. Oh goodness, do I have faith. Because I would not be standing here if I didn't. I have faith that the same God who allowed my son to die will bring me through this. Because God doesn't "will" that his creatures die. He did not make us, in the very beginning, to get old, sick and DIE. He allowed this for reasons I can not fathom, but God did not WANT my child to die. He did not want me and my husband and our oldest son to miss out on the blessing that was another child. The blessing that was our Bennet. God does not "WILL" that we suffer.

I trust that God will care for me. That yes, he may allow something like this to happen again. But he will hold me, again, through it, same as He is now. Angry, raging, furious, broken, He is, and will, hold me.

God teaches me. He CAN use this horrific experience for blessing. He can. But that does NOT mean that he's a giant bully and makes bad things happen so he can teach us a lesson. Blessing that flows from this loss are in SPITE of the loss, not BECAUSE of it.

I have pretty severe anxiety issues since loosing Bennet (I'm not saying I've been diagnosed with anything because, well, I haven't. I've only been able to see a therapist 5 times before I lost the only baby sitter I had and had to stop going). I held death inside me where life once existed. I gave birth to death. I placed my tiny, perfect, beautiful child into the ground. Any anxiety or trauma I experienced as a result of that is not because of a lack of faith and not enough prayer. It is a result of actual trauma. If prayer and reading my Bible and meditation could do away with the flashbacks, the nightmares, the constant racing heart and inability to sleep, the unwarranted fear about loosing Simon or Phillip... I would be fixed by now. They help, the prayer and reading. Because I notice a difference when I haven't had them. The anxiety and PTSD does not control me. It hurts me, it makes life very VERY difficult. But it does not rule my life. I refuse to let it.

But faith, prayer, it isn't a FIX. Not an automatic one, anyway.

It is a balm. Slowly healing, yes, but not a FIX.

We can't be fixed. We accept that most days. We're ok with that most days. Because we have no choice. Accepting it isn't bad, it isn't wrong, it doesn't mean we've given up on being happy. It means we realize our lives are different, and we will always hurt to some degree, always have an empty chair at the dinner table, an empty spot in family photos, always be missing Bennet.

It is OK to not be fixable. OK to be broken. Because God still uses broken people. God still uses us, and we still rely on God.