Waiting Room

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This hasn’t been one of my better days. I can’t even really say why. I could ramble on about some of the reasons. But I don’t feel like getting overly-specific. The radio was on in the kitchen during breakfast as I sat in the office checking e-mails. Lyrics to a song that I was never fond of to begin with sort of jumped out at me… oh, yeah, life goes on.

You know the song… by John Cougar Mellencamp? It’s not even a song about losing someone who died. But it didn’t matter. Those particular words were screaming at me from the kitchen.

Then I remembered. Today is January 4th… the due date doctors gave us for Anysia’s birth after they had calculated her E.T.A. based on one piece of information—the date of the first day of my last menstrual cycle before we got pregnant—ignoring the fact that we were certain about exactly which day we conceived. We always knew theirs was an inaccurate estimate, and always stuck with our original calculation… the one we came up with after taking the home-pregnancy test that revealed we were pregnant. Ours was based on the precisely-known day of conception, which we entered into one of those on-line calculators that requires either the date of the first day of your last cycle or the suspected date of conception {if known}. I’m guessing that the doctor’s prediction was based on typical cycle-length. But as my cycles {at 41 years old} had been shorter than they were in my younger years, I’m pretty sure that was the logical explanation for the seven-day difference between their due date and our December 28th due date.

Anyway, realizing what today is didn’t help my mood any. It just added to my sadness and the disappointment I was already feeling. At least {on the bright side} I had not felt the same way on the real due date… back on the 28th of December. Maybe this is how it will be every year. One of those two anniversaries will be difficult, and the other not as much. I don’t know.

Grieving is hard work, someone told me recently.

I think I am starting to understand this statement. If you are a relational person like I am, that alone can make grieving difficult. Because of that dominant relational side of my personality, there have been many who I reached out to, both before and after Anysia’s birth and death. Whenever I did, I most often received at least some sort of reply… usually a gracious one. But not always did I hear back. I should let those no-reply instances go. But they linger in my mind, and I question… why? I let thoughts of concern take root and grow too tall… did I say something wrong? did I not say the right thing? was I too open or too transparent? too over-bearing?

Throughout our loss, starting shortly after the diagnosis six months ago, I’ve behaved this way too… neglecting to reply, at times, when someone reached out to me. Not often, but sometimes. However, in every case, it was only after first being very forthcoming and available… responsive or open with those involved. But then, in my grief, there were times I closed up. I suspect most found this totally okay and even somewhat expected it, given that I was grieving and often despairing. Whether those people did find it okay or not, I always eventually came back around to being communicative again.

But communication is not being shown to me in those instances where I still haven’t heard back. That same courtesy or grace has not been shown to me. So, as one who tends to be thin-skinned, it’s difficult not to feel snubbed. I’m not just talking it’s-taking-some-time-to-reply-for-whatever-reason. I’m talking complete lack of any sort of response for an extended period of time. If it’s because people don’t know what to say, it makes me sad to know that. And I have a hard time accepting that as a reason when these parties seemed to be able to say the right thing previously. But perhaps they are also going through something life-altering, and I have to be aware of that possibility. If it’s my fault because, somewhere along the line, I said something wrong, I’d feel awful knowing that too. I would hate to be the one saying things wrong right now, especially when I know what it feels like to hear things said in a less-than-sensitive-or-appropriate way .

So… I guess this is just one of the many little nuances of grief that you have to wade through. There seem to be a lot of those. When you just want to be what you need to be… able to grieve in whatever way that feels natural and necessary… you have to weed out those parts that aren’t helping you to do so… or those parts that are distracting. That must be what was meant when I was told grieving is hard work.

Grieving is not missing my baby girl. Missing her is easy. It’s all the other stuff that comes with it that’s hard, I think… which I am just now beginning to understand.

Another wrenching thing that facing or dealing with loss does is shed light on past hurt and loss. It can bring to the forefront of your thoughts any past relationships that are broken… sometimes those for which you’ve finally just begun to heal, or even the severed relationships in which you’ve already found healing. It even sheds what feels like unwelcome light on the relationships in your life that are currently suffering or dying.

You tell yourself, I don’t really want to think about these relationships… I just want to grieve losing my daughter. So you stop, but the thoughts tend to resurface here and there. And you try not to go to that place that has you thinking, how insensitive of so-n-so to not respond when I’m grieving… or to a place where you once again find yourself bitter over a past broken relationship. Instead, you try with all your might to focus on and be grateful for the fact that there are some in your life with whom you have been restored as a result of your daughter’s diagnosis, or focus on the many people who have reached out to you throughout and never once left your side.

But on bad days, like today, those aren’t easy things to do {or not do}.

This is just a bad day.

I’m sadder than usual. I’m relational, and I need people… it’s one of the best ways I have coped with and processed this all. I don’t like the isolation that comes with losing a baby. But maybe that is something I need to embrace… on days like this, especially.

Today, I want my baby girl back. I want to wrap my arms around her and let everything else go… because none of that other stuff is important in light of her, and holding her would remind me of that, I think. But with empty arms I have a great amount of space to fill… and I’m trying not to fill it with all this… these thoughts.

I do know this… It’s all opening my eyes to the way I want to be when I see the face of grief in someone else. I want to be a person who can empathize and initially reaches out and makes myself available. I want to be a person who always responds, even if it’s not the easy thing to do or if I can’t say what I think someone else wants to hear. I always want to be gracious that way. And even when there is no grieving for a friend, I always want to look down the road before I’d sever any relationship. Will they be losing a baby some day? In retrospect, would I want to handle this day differently… this severance day… if I were to hear of a great loss they’d be facing or suffering some day? Would my hurts and gripes still seem legitimate in light of that?

Past is past. Even recent past. There is no use searching and wondering. I only mean to say that this is a part of the grief… well, maybe not part of it, but a difficult by-product at the very least… a part I never expected to be working through. And it’s one that wants to grow up big and scary, like an ugly monster, when the support you’ve known for months starts to dwindle because your baby has finally been born and now it’s all in the past.

In other words, loss can seem like a giant magnifying glass to past pain and disappointment.

That’s just where I am at today. Last night, I reached out to two grieving moms who lost their babies. I only know if I said “the right thing” {or didn’t say the wrong thing} to one of them, because I received a nice reply from her and her husband. {I don’t know these women… I just found them online.} The other may not have gotten the comment I left her. But if she did, she chose not to acknowledge it. Maybe in her case I said the wrong thing? I don’t know. This also happened back during my pregnancy when reaching out to moms who went through what I did. I thought this would be a healthy thing for me… this reaching out to other moms for support. But I can see where it will be tricky, because everyone is so individual in how they deal with their loss… just as I am so different from each of them. There’s a big part of me that wants to do nothing but reach out. And another part that wants to lock up tight my story… at least in the reaching-out-to-connect sense.

Maybe the best thing for me would be to just wait until God brings someone into my path or until I am approached. I will be joining a grief-support group if it works out for us logistically, and I figure it will probably be a good place for me to connect, as I doubt anyone would be there if they didn’t want to connect as much as I do. But even then, it might be hard… because not everyone will believe the way I do or see things in the same way. That’s okay. Perfectly okay. I just don’t know if it will be easy. I want to connect and commiserate with other moms… even bond and share in their suffering. I’m just not certain it will work out.

Well, I guess I got more specific about these thoughts than I had intended. They’re just the couple of things I’m working through right now… as I try not to let it matter too much when I don’t hear back from someone in my time of grief and while I try to figure out where I fit in among this community of grieving parents who’ve lost babies.

I was up until 3a.m. a couple of nights ago… just looking at photos of my sweet Anysia. I couldn’t stop crying. There would be no photo-viewing today, but I still can’t seem to stop the tears. I’m okay with that. Inevitably, it will be that way some days. I would be worried if it weren’t. I hope no one reads this and thinks they need to feel bad for me. That’s not my intent. I said from the get go that this would be a place where I am transparent and where I hope to process things… even openly grieve. I’ve had a different post brewing in my mind for a few days, called The Milk and the Love, that I would much rather be putting out here today. Most {if not all} of my posts have been pretty positive. And they aren’t falsely so. They come out of an honest and abiding trust that I have in God. But I have bad days, too.

LIke I said… I’m okay with that.

And so ends my rambling about these things on this day.

• • •

As for the photos I’ve used today, they speak a little bit to what I said about myself above… that I am a very relational person. This group of photos is the majority of the waiting room pictures that my friend, Sherah, took while we were in our hospital room laboring. During those hours when my husband and I were in our room with no one but our amazing nurse {who rarely left our side}, I remember thinking…

I wish I could see what is going on out in the waiting room right now. I want to know who is out there and who is talking to who. What is the mood? What is everyone thinking and saying? What is Isaac up to? I hope they are all enjoying each other. I wish I could be out there with them. Or them with me.

It’s not like it’s out of the ordinary to have a lot of loved ones in the hospital waiting room when you are there laboring for the birth of your baby who isn’t expected to live. The reason I bring it up, though, is because we had pictured things to be much different prior to that day. We knew we might have very limited time with our daughter… little time to meet her, hear her and watch her breathe. In our solemn state throughout the days leading up to her birth, we knew that if we had only a short time with her, we would want the atmosphere at the hospital to be quiet and peaceful, without a lot of traffic from loved ones entering and leaving to meet our little girl. We talked about wanting it to be just Izzy and ourselves in the room with her, quietly holding her and saying goodbye if we only had a small window to do so.

When friends and family would ask if we wanted them with us at the hospital that day, I just didn’t have the heart to turn them away. So I would tell them of our hopes… that we hoped to get a long stretch of quality time with her, in which case we would allow close family and friends to trickle in one at a time so they could say hello and goodbye. But then I would warn them… “If it looks like she will be passing shortly after birth, we will want to just keep things private and intimate… no visitors that might potentially take up the little time we’ll have with her.” If the latter would have been the case, we would have allowed only the photographer in the room with us, so that she could quietly and non-intrusively document those moments of us saying goodbye in the short time we’d have with our baby girl.

But when I realized just how many of our friends and family were out in the waiting room, in part to support us and in part to meet Anysia {some since 6a.m. that morning}, the very relational side of me wanted to have a big ol’ party to celebrate her birth and life… when she finally did arrive. I wished I could see all those precious souls who were out in that waiting room for us… and her. And that is exactly how it happened. They all came in to our room, one by one, until the entire group {about eleven between family and friends} was there by our sides after she was born. And it was a beautiful time… one filled with so much love and lots of tears… even laughter. And all together, we had what might be considered a living memorial for her in those few hours together. Anysia lived for six hours, and she got to be relational {like her mama} that day, too… until each of her visitors left, one by one… the last visitor being my sweet twin sister, who left only moments before Anysia passed.

That’s why these pictures are so precious to me. I am so very thankful for my dear photographer friend who thought to document what was going on out there in the waiting room, too. They capture the anticipation and hope that was alive in that space. She even wrote a little bit about those moments in a thoughtful message containing memories of that day, recounted in her e-mail that I received earlier tonight. I want to share at least part of her words… possibly my favorite part of the entire message…
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I’ll never forget sitting in the waiting room, holding hands with your family and friends, your mom crying out to God on behalf of all of us as Anysia was being delivered… and then, just moments later, someone getting the text that she was HERE. God had answered immediately. Incredible. His hand was everywhere.”
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Yes, He was! Looking back over all I’ve written above, I realize just how much we have to be thankful for… the immeasurable support we’ve received and the outpouring of love and care shown throughout.
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i think that maybe realizing this can help me to stop

waiting

for some to show up who either won’t or simply can’t,

and it’s helping me to do a clean sweep, clearing out the

room

to allow the others in who want to show up, and have.

.

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Photographs by Sherah G
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