This Space

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It was exactly two years ago today that I wrote my first entry on this blog. So it’s ironic that, yesterday and the day before, I would find out that others were making fun of some things I’ve written in this space… specifically, what I wrote about the day that we found out Anysia’s abdomen/intestines were not forming correctly as she was growing in my belly, as well as what I wrote about losing my grandma and the influence she had in my life.

I’ve sort of gone back and forth about that. I was initially hurt, but let it go, and then have come back around to feeling hurt more than once since I found out. One of the things that pulled me out of feeling that hurt was knowing it would be best to let it go and ignore that kind of thing, because for every time someone made fun of this space or my words {the first, that I know of, being these last two days}, there have been hundreds of times that someone made a point to thank me for what I’ve written here… especially the things I’ve written about Anysia and our loss, grief and way of coping with it all… many more times that someone made a point to tell me they’ve been inspired or comforted by what they found in this space… many more times that someone made a point to tell me that this space helped them get through their own experience… many more times that someone made a point to tell me that it helped them revisit a loss or difficult experience of their own that they previously went through and get in touch with the pain they had previously suppressed, helping them to grieve for the first time… many more times that someone made a point to tell me that my ability to be an open book about our loss helped them heal in theirs… many times that someone made a point to tell me that reading our story helped them not to feel so alone in theirs… and lastly, many times that someone made a point to tell me that writing what I have has helped them to better understand or better help someone they know who is suffering.

I’ve had people say I’m brave to put it out there. Some might say it’s gutsy. Others might even say it’s just an attempt to gain attention. I assure anyone who would take the time to ask… it’s none of those things. It was simply what I did to get through the experience. If I’d bottled all of it in, I would not have gotten through it all well. Even with this outlet with which I was able to get things off my chest, there were days I did not get through it well. Even with a grief counselor to talk to or a caring husband who listens, I did not get through it well some days. Nor would anyone. But it doesn’t hurt to find whatever works to help you grieve. And for me, it was words… specifically writing.

Would I go back and write some of the things I have differently. Probably. I sometimes go back and read what I’ve written and think, Wow!… that really sounded melodramatic or over-the-top. But I don’t beat myself up, because I can give myself the grace I deserve knowing I was either in the throes of grief when I wrote it, or even in a place where post-pregnancy hormone levels were probably rather unstable. Even a year+ later, I was likely dealing with unstable hormones, as the depression that came with my grief probably affected all those levels, and knowing my depression was not of a chronic nature, but rather circumstantial, I chose not to take medication to regulate any hormones or anything else that was off-balance. So, yes… I was rather emotional and wordy and cathartic at times here. But I’ve always tried to write from my heart and be honest with my thoughts.

I could have written just the same, only kept it all private, like in a journal… the old-school way. Or in a digital blog form like this, but one that can only be viewed with a password. But I chose to not make it private because I hoped it could be to others what other moms’ public online or printed writings were to me after I found out about our daughter… other moms and dads who went through what we were about to go through. I wasn’t so naive as to think that every person who might come across it would think it was a good thing or something to be admired, nor did I write to that end. I knew there would be some who might think it ridiculous to be so open. I knew there would be people reading that do not agree at all with what I believe about God and life and death. But in my experience, I’ve found that there were even others with rather different-than-mine beliefs who told me that what I have written has inspired them or helped open their eyes to how short life can be or how much we can sometimes take for granted.

This has also been a place where I could help friends and family understand where we were at in our grief process. That was sometimes so helpful, as there were many people in our lives who found it just too awkward to even acknowledge there was a death of our second baby. Writing gave me the chance to tell them where we were at without them having to ask the questions they found too difficult to ask. And I’ve heard many times from some of them that they appreciated knowing this way.

So, more often than not, I’ve been glad I made the choice to share what I do publicly. After the most difficult stages of grief started to subside and the lines of this blog started to blur… is this just a place for my photography, or should I still write here?… I began to consider switching to a different blog. One that would be primarily photography with maybe some writing, but a whole lot less, and with a much less personal approach. But I never got around to it.

This space is one I want to return to often. Over the last few weeks, I have. I have enjoyed going back and reading some of those first posts I wrote and remembering those first days after our daughter died. I’ve cried as I read them. It was somewhat painful to read what it was like during those first few months… painful to remember. But it was a healing thing to read all of it, too. It was helpful to me to see where I am now compared to where I was then… how far along I’ve come in grieving and how much I’ve come to accept the reality that I did not get to raise a healthy daughter or that I had to watch her die in my arms. It’s also a space I hope my son will visit some day, so he can know what our family came through and perhaps better understand why things were so hard there for a while. Even if he doesn’t remember how hard it was, I want him to know our history. I’ve already forgotten so many of the details, so I’m glad I’ve written them down for him… exactly as I was experiencing and feeling them at the moment the words were written. Lastly, it’s a space I want others to come to and be inspired by, or helped by.

Sometimes this blog has had only an audience of one {thanks, Mom.} Other times, I know several have read, because I’ll receive a handful or more of comments on a post. There have even been times when thousands of people viewed a post. The second and third posts I wrote here two years ago were such instances where I had a larger audience… because of the fact that two somewhat influential people each shared one of my posts on social media. Two years ago, it was the author whose book I read during my pregnancy who shared my post after she saw that I linked to her book’s website in my second post. Just a few weeks ago, it was a member of Chanticleer, the choral group I wrote about in my third post here. I never expected to have such an audience for those posts, but I was so honored when I did, because it helped me to feel like my daughter’s life meant a little more in that it reached more people than it would have without those two people sharing what I wrote about her. It’s never anything but helpful, somewhat easing the pain, when I find out that her story touched others and even had a positive effect or brought about a positive change in someone.

But I know that not everyone who reads the words I write comes away from it that way. I’ve come to learn through our experience that not everyone has the capacity for empathy. And that is not a judgemental statement. It is just a fact. People really can’t know how to display empathy if they’ve never gone through something impactful enough to realize what it means or how it helped them when they received it from someone else. I used to think that only other moms {or dads} who lost a child so soon after birth could empathize with us. But I’ve come to realize that there are many kinds of loss and other forms of suffering or sorrow people go through, all of which can teach and give them the ability to empathize with the loss of a baby. So it hasn’t just been from other baby-loss parents that we’ve been shown empathy. In the same way, our loss has helped me have the ability to display empathy with others who are going through their own painful experiences, even experiences much different from ours. But before our child died, I can honestly say I didn’t know how to display empathy… and it’s something I’m still learning to do well, actually. Like everyone, I’m a work in progress.

I don’t know where I will take this space. On days like yesterday, I just wanted to shut it down. But I’m choosing not to. I’ve gotten so much busier since I started a new job that I probably will not post much here, anyway. And given the reason I started this blog… to help me cope with and process losing Anysia… I don’t feel like there is much more to say that I have not already. I mean, there is so much I never got around to saying. I never even wrote down her birth story from beginning to end like I hoped to. I never got around to writing about some of the experiences we had after she died. But I can’t force any of that. I wrote what I could, when I could. And now, I feel like I’ve moved on from those things. We still remember her, and even do special things to remember her, just like we will do in two days… on the day she would be turning two years old if she were here. But those are things I have previously written about and I probably won’t make the effort to document them again… rather, I’ll keep them quieter and closer to home.

Hurt or not, I am disappointed that someone would take the time to visit my blog and make an effort to read parts of it, and then make fun of it, rather than take that same effort and put it into something positive… like just asking me about what they read. If they did not agree with something, I’d prefer they challenge me on it, in a comment or in person. Or just hold their opinions to themselves, rather than making fun of two things I wrote about… those two losses. I just can’t grasp what would be the point of hurtful gossip or sarcasm. Likely, it was not the loss they were making fun of, or even my reaction to the loss. I imagine it’s more about the writing style… or the fact that I would even put it out there for others to read. If I had the chance to personally tell them why, it would be all that I have said above. And then I might ask them to not continue reading if it was only for the purpose of having more to make fun of. Perhaps that’s what I’m doing right now, hoping if other posts were read by those people, they’ll read this one, too.

To be honest, I didn’t even think people took time to read blogs… especially not long posts like I tend to write. Most social media is set up for the quick fly-by message… one photo or a short blurb limited to 140 characters. We hardly even comment on the bombardment of updates and messages we receive every day via social media, and that is why heart and thumbs-up buttons were created… so we can leave our mark and prove we were there without having to commit to any words if we don’t want to. I know that’s the new culture in the world of information, but I wrote out my long posts anyway.

I couldn’t be one who only wrote flowery, fluffy things… about how she was an angel or something like that. It never felt right for me. I had to write what’s real, and I had to write all of it, even the raw emotions… even the pain. And I wrote it only as it came out. Meant for anyone, but obviously not for everyone.

My hope was that this would be a place where her life was honored. A tribute. A reminder. My hope was that this would be a place that showed what her life means to me… that as brief as it was, or as flawed as it was, it was no less significant to me than the life of my now four-year-old, and every bit as meaningful to me as if she’d lived until the day I die. My hope was that those six hours would stretch out over years in this space. And that the way I lived beyond her, or the changes her life made in mine, would make even a small difference in someone else’s life. My hope was that her few breaths were not in vain if I could heal in this space and perhaps help someone else in the process. And my hope was that I would not take the loss into bitter territory or dark, private places that I could not come out of, at least not easily.

And honestly, even if writing had never helped anyone else, it helped me. All the more it helped me knowing I had an opportunity to help someone else.

If any person feels a need to make fun of any part of that, I suppose that was the risk I took in choosing to be an open book. My husband is much more private than I am. He is not one to wilt without social connection the way I do. For me, it used to be the in-person kind of connection I craved with people. After losing a baby, I’ve lost touch with that art, and now look for most of my connection in places like this. Just as a very sweet person told me a couple of days ago, when she was letting me bend her ear about my struggle to face the anniversary coming up in two days and how I’m finding it difficult to be my old social self, I’m going to have to relearn a lot of those things… simple things, like how to converse with someone, especially on levels that go beyond small talk. Experiencing some ridicule for the one place I have been able to open up or be myself is certainly not helping me move quickly forward with that relearning. But I guess it doesn’t have to be a setback, either. Thank God my son has more than just one example to look to on how to be thick-skinned. He’ll learn it well from his dad, where I might not be so good a model.

All that to say, you’ve probably noticed, if you read here often, that I’ve been somewhat absent around here. I sometimes wonder if I’m feeling the itch to give up the blogging thing. I don’t know. Not because of what happened the last two days, but because that was sort of the direction I was going anyway. It’s a trend that will probably keep up for a while. Even if I were to keep posts to a photography-only level, there would be fewer and fewer, because I just haven’t had the time for shoots or even personal work, other than a couple of things I already have in progress.

It really wasn’t ever my intent to write here indefinitely. Even back when I wrote on this day two years ago, I felt the duration of this blog would only be for a while. Maybe in time that will change, and I’ll pick up here regularly again.

But as of now, things are dwindling down here in this space. As they do, I am so grateful for the regular readers and the drop-in-from-time-to-time readers who have encouraged, comforted and helped me. I’m grateful for the ones who’ve shared my words, as well as my daughter’s life through them. And I’m grateful for the prayers lifted up on my family’s behalf during the hardest stretches of our grief.

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