Saturday, July 16, 2011

On a Happier Note...

So, I just went back and re-read my last 2 blog entries and I get that they weren't exactly positive.  When I decided to start this blog, it was to help other people through the journey of grief and to talk about the ups and downs.  While I don't want anyone to ever have to experience what we have experienced, I understand that it happens to different people at different times for different reasons.  I think most of the time, the feelings that surface are pretty similar and I think it's important for people to understand that it's not always a rosy path filled with butterflies and ice cream cones.  Even 2 years later, I still have my bad days just like everyone else.  I was just given the blessing of gab and have a talent for verbalizing my feelings and from time to time, actually making some sense.  It's a good thing that while I still have those feelings and insecurities, they don't last weeks or consume my life like they did in the past.

I want to share with you someone who is very special to me ~ my grandma.  She was this amazing woman who I was very close with.  Her name is Margaret Dempsey O'Dowd and she was very much the matriarch of my Dad's family.  She had 9 children (my Dad is #2), was a foster parent to several, taught preschool, and did so many other things with her life.  She was a Naval Officer along with my Grandpa (who coincidentally was also on Submarines ~ just like my husband).  Here is their wedding picture.

She did so much with her life and was always helping others.  They were very active in the Catholic Church and while I thank my parents often for my faith, I realize that it was the wisdom and deep-seeded culture of many generations before them.  My grandma and grandpa were in the deaconate program until my Grandfather passed away.  She decided to continue and finish the program.

I owe a lot of who I am to my grandma.  She was a wonderful woman, she always listened to me complain about my parents during those challenging teenage years, she always had a smile on her face, and she gave to everyone around her.  I still have a sweater of hers.  It's sealed away in plastic, but it still smells like her.

I wanted to share her life with you because I firmly believe that she is caring for Savannah right now.  I mean, who has more experience with children and foster parenting than her?  That woman had nothing but unconditional love to give.  I remember when I was really little and she stayed with me and my 2 older sisters while my parents were at the hospital with my younger sister.  She was born 3 months premature and had a lot of health problems.  She let us make whatever we wanted for lunch ~ even sugar sandwiches (which sounded like a good idea at the time) and my personal favorite ~ butter & peanut butter together.

I remember driving home from San Diego up to Monterey before she died.  She had a brain bleed, but she waited until all of her children had the opportunity to fly from all over the country to be by her side.  She had a massive stroke, but I will never forget how she looked at me and mouthed to me that she loved me.  She passed away 6 months before I met my husband, Eric.  After Jeremy was born, we went to Chicago and visited her grave site.  It's funny because we have a very large family plot there.  After we lost Savannah, we seriously contemplated having her buried there, but I knew that I would want to visit her all the time and make sure everything was being taken care of, so we decided to bury her here in VA.

My grandma instilled many things in me and I attribute much of who I am because of her.  I gained my rich Irish culture, my loving and giving nature, my willingness to help others within the community, and to take the things I've learned and share them with others in need.  I also learned how to be a strong and proud military spouse.  There wasn't anything my grandma couldn't do.  I look to her for advice and pray to her often.  I know that she is taking such good care of Savannah and giving her all the love and support that I would.  She is an amazing woman and I strive to be like her.

I love her and miss her so much but I find so much comfort knowing that she is taking such good care of Savannah for me until my time comes.  She was one of the most outstanding women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Friday, July 8, 2011


**Probably not a good idea to read if you are currently pregnant.  Then again, maybe you can learn something.

Do you know what Infertility is like?  A few years ago, I didn't either.  I think Infertility is something that happens to people, such as myself, who are control freaks.  Having another baby is just timing, right?  Wrong.  I have learned the hard way that there are some things people just can't control, even me.

I can't control the fact that some people are extremely fertile.  Lucky them.  Some people keep getting pregnant and then use things like abortion as a birth control method.  I try not to judge, but it's hard.  Some people just keep having babies and then complain about how expensive it is.

Then, there are others who claim to be infertile who do it for attention.  You are not infertile because you had 2 miscarriages and then go on to have 3 or 4 more children.  You are especially not infertile if you go and brag to others who are infertile that you are now pregnant again unplanned because ~ surprise surprise ~ you decided your family was complete but didn't use birth control.  Someone who is infertile or who has infertility does not rub an unplanned pregnancy in the face of others.  I have to question if that person was ever infertile to begin with.

For anyone who has no idea what I am talking about, I will use an example using chocolate.  Pretend that you are standing in the middle of a circle and for some reason, all you want is some chocolate but you don't have any.  You are craving it and have wanted some for a very long time.  Now, you are circled by others who are eating chocolate in front of you.  You try to be happy watching them enjoy their chocolate, but perhaps one or two of these ladies are overweight or diabetic and you know they really shouldn't be eating that chocolate.  Then someone comes from outside the circle into the middle to meet you.  They say, I understand, I want some chocolate too and it really sucks to be surrounded by people eating chocolate.  But wait a minute!  There's something in my back pocket! says this other woman.  It's a chocolate bar!  I know it's melted a little bit, but I am going to lick it off my fingers right in front of you.  That's exactly how it feels to struggle with infertility and watch everyone around you get pregnant.

I know that the events that have happened in my life have left me a changed person.  There are times when I still struggle with anger and bitterness.  For the most part, I don't complain.  I understand that life just isn't fair and sometimes there are people in it who unknowingly make it much harder on you.  Infertility sucks because you can't control it, you can't wish it away, it just is.  There are good days and bad days.  But please understand that if you are near someone with it, please try to have some empathy and do not lick your chocolate off your fingers in front of them.  It's really just cruel.

I hope one day we will have lots more children to add to our family.  I hope it will be soon.  I know that my experiences have changed me as a person, in every way.  As much as pregnancy scares me, I know and appreciate what a blessing it is.  I know that every second of morning sickness, backache, ankle swelling is a direct result of the miracle of life.  If you are pregnant, please don't complain about not being able to drink or smoke or eat whatever you want.  I know several people who would chew off their arm to be where you are right now.

Pregnancy is the biggest blessing in the world, but it is so easy to take for granted.  Enjoy each and every day and thank God for the miracle that is growing within you.  Focus on loving your baby rather than complaining.  I have never been shy about the fact that this is my biggest regret while I was pregnant with Savannah.  I complained.  I worried.  I anticipated everything.  I didn't take the time to tell her how much I loved her and wanted her.

You never know what someone else has on their plate or in their heart.  I am who I am today because of what happened.  I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and be that ignorant again where I didn't know all that I know today.  But I can't.  And each time since Savannah that I have been pregnant, I have focused on loving that baby for each and every day they grew within my belly.  Because of this, I have no regrets when they left me to be with Savannah.  Tell me, if you are pregnant and everything ends tomorrow, would you have regrets?

Sometimes, it's better not to ask...

Someone asked me today about the sign on my truck.  I tried to be brief and not give a lot of detail, which, unknowingly, always leads to more questions.  I never mind talking about Savannah at all.  In fact, most of the time, I am happy to do so.  Sharing her life is another way of sharing her with the world.  After all, what good does it do anyone to just go on with my life and pretend that she never existed?  What kind of mother would that make me?

Anyway, as the questions got more invasive and I explained more about what happend, I felt all the anger coming back.  I have worked so hard to get to where I am today, accepting Savannah for who she is.  I often hear the comment, "I just can't even imagine."

Well, allow me to explain it to you.  Pretend that you are in a wonderful marriage and have a beautiful little boy and now you are expecting a little girl, which is secretly what you always hoped for.  You go shopping and pick out the most amazing outfits and dresses from Strasburg and all sorts of online boutiques.  You decorate the nursery exactly the way you had been envisioning in your mind since you were a little girl.  Everything is going fine until you hear the words Down Syndrome.  But, you know that you will love your little girl unconditionally and will do your best to be her Advocate for life.  You know that the career of being a ballerina will not be possible but you focus on the postives and continue to anxiously await the arrival of your precious miracle.  The nursery is ready, just as you pictured.  The crib is ready.  The carseat is in the backseat, approved installation by the local fire department.  You have your bags packed with the most adorable outfits for the hospital possible with at least 40 bows packed and at least 3 pairs of shoes for each day spent there.  She is your child, after all.  There is a sign that you ordered to hang outside your front door that says "We welcome with joy and love Savannah Grace Renfro" and cannot wait to display it so that all of your neighbors who have been watching you waddle back and forth each day to the mailbox can stop asking you when the baby is coming.  You have the Baptism scheduled for 3 weeks later and a Baptismal Gown that you yourself wore already pressed and waiting.

You think to yourself that even if your daughter has Down Syndrome, your biggest concern is how the older people at Church will look at her and wonder if she will be judged as she grows.  Seriously, that is your biggest concern.

And then something happens.  You go to the hospital and deliver a baby that is not alive.  Something much bigger than your biggest nightmare has just happened.  There are no answers, no explanations.  You watch babies come out of the OR just having been delivered via C-section and you hear the woman in the next room laboring and the horse-thumping sound of her baby's heartbeat, who is still very much alive.  And you have nothing.

You go home and look in the backseat of your car as your husband drives.  You see the empty carseat, the handmade blankets you had to cover that newborn baby still folded up, unused.  You return home to a nursery that is beautifully decorated but no baby to enjoy it.  You look at the closet full of clothes, all still with tags on it that extend from Newborn sizes to 4T, because you learned with your son that no child stays in Newborn sizes for long.  You were smarter and bought ahead so the seasons would match up.  You notice the 3 long strands of ribbon that neatly hold each and every bow that you found to be just perfect for your daughter and the shoe rack that holds more shoes than any girl would ever possibly need.  You see that sign that you were waiting to put up, layed out neatly on the bed that was decorated to match the nursery bedding so you could stay up late at night to nurse your daughter.

The nursery is too much to take, so you walk into the kitchen and see all of the Dr. Browns bottles neatly lined up from smallest to tallest.  Maybe the kitchen wasn't such a good place to go.  The garage has to be safer.  There you find the cases and cases of diapers that you stocked up on because you knew exactly how long she would be in each size.  It's all staring you in the face, but you have nothing.

That's how it felt.  I still go back to that time and re-live every single moment of the devastation and sadness and anger.  You can't imagine what it's like?  There you go. Try to imagine it. It's the worst possible nightmare that can happen.  And sadly, it can happen to anyone when they least expect it.

Eric and I are older, but not too old.  We are both college educated and smart people.  We are not low-income or low intelligence or low socio-economic class.  We are Republicans after all!  This isn't supposed to happen to people like us.  But it did.  It happens more often than you think.  It happens to good people.  Sometimes, life just isn't fair and there is nothing you can do about it.  I'm not sharing this to scare anyone, but rather to help people understand what it's like. 

Maybe one day, this won't be such a taboo topic. Maybe someday, this won't happen anymore.

All I know is that it did happen, and it happened to me.  If this happens to someone that you know, perhaps you can be a better friend to them instead of saying "I just can't imagine."