Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why I Write in This Medium

When I started this blog, it was an outlet for teaching anecdotes. Then I moved and was no longer teaching, but I certainly had more time to knit, so I began to catalog some of those achievements. Then I got pregnant and shared some of that experience for friends and family that lived at a distance. And after losing Katherine, I processed some of my grief through these public writings.

I realize some may not understand why I felt the need to share some of those raw feelings in such a public forum. I'm not sure if I can completely explain that need either. I surely have many journal entries that never saw the light of day here because I thought they were too personal. But there's a feeling of anonymity here, this space online that, unless someone leaves a comment or references my posts in conversation, I can pretend it's this private space all my own. No one is forced to read, and for all I know, few do. I may be absent from this space for weeks, but it just draws me back when I have a spare moment. Here's a limited glimpse of my life. And I couldn't imagine writing about teaching and knitting without focusing on experiences that meant so much more to me than those insignificant bits. So I shared. And I hoped that maybe it would make a difference. I hoped it would help in my healing. That maybe if I could put words to the experience, I would remember the time better, even if it meant recognizing how deeply we'd been wounded, how far we had to come from.

While not the first time some stranger has written me about sharing my story, someone contacted me on Ravelry this week, a knitter that had the misfortune of losing their premature daughter this spring due to pre-eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome (misfortune sounds like the worst word ever, so forgive me for not being able to select a better one). She said my words brought her comfort. She's very early in this period of grief, but it helped her to know that others had gone through the same diagnosis and yet followed that up with a healthy, typical pregnancy and a full-term baby. It gave her hope that there will still be a chance for them.

It's when I get a comment from someone who has been helped by my words that I feel like I have made a difference. In whatever small part, Katherine continues to influence people.

So, Katherine, had you lived, you would have turned 3 last Sunday. I would have loved to know what it was like to be a mother to you on this earth for more than a week, but I take comfort in knowing that you made an impact on my life, and because I was willing to share, even in the midst of the pain and hurt, I have helped others. People that have lost their own children. People that need to know one experience doesn't dictate their future and remove all chances for another child.

Today marks the day three years ago that we had to say goodbye. And it's hard to know best how to recognize this day. I wish it wasn't on our radar, but I am grateful for the ways your short life shaped mine. And I'm still working at it, trying to not keep my guard up, to not assume the worst. To let people in. To be vulnerable. So today, I'll live like I try to each and every other day. I'll draw alongside my husband who has walked beside me as we went through this dark journey. I'll hug and kiss and play with your little sister, think of the blessings you brought us, and pray for our continued healing and those who might be a little earlier on this journey. We have scars, but they're a little less raw today, and we're trying not to let them get the best of us. It wouldn't be fair to you and your memory if we were embittered, despondent people today because we were only fortunate to have six days with you. And by God's grace, I can say that we are not.

It seemed somehow fitting that this was the week someone wrote about the impact my story had on them. We're still seeing how we've been influenced by your life. And I can remember the early months of your loss, how we shut down and somehow made it from day to day. All the tears. The daily meals friends brought by. Returning to work. Physically healing first, then slowly the emotional and mental healing followed. The setbacks as we tried again, and the fear that accompanied the thought of a new pregnancy. Holding our breath as one more week passed without complications. And somehow our story was able to touch others and help them in their own grief and uncertainty. So however infrequently, I'm encouraged to keep returning to this space.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Letter to My Daughter: 11 Months

11 months!

I can hardly believe that it has been 11 months that you have been bringing joy to our lives! I suppose when you start out the first few months not sleeping more than a couple hours in a stretch, it's hard to properly catalog the changing days, but here we are.

This month, like many others, has brought about many changes. You spend a lot of your time crawling all around, and you're getting more confident pulling yourself up on things.

You also do this thing where you use your feet to spin yourself around in circles; Charity got a video of it during her time here.

Two of your aunts, and three of your cousins, stayed here few a few days this past month. You enjoyed the attention.

You spent a lot of time watching them playing, but before you know it, you'll be joining right in.

The cats are still a little wary of you, rightly so. The term "gentle" means little to nothing. At one point, you even grabbed Dante's face with both of your hands, squeezing away. He didn't retaliate, but he did beat a hasty retreat once I pried open your hands.

Speaking of that iron grip, my arms, face, and neck all bear evidence of little claw marks. You've even drawn blood on some occasions. Your dad took a series of pictures, and this is one of the only salvageable ones; the others have me trying to free my hair and skin from your grasp.

You continue to draw attention wherever you go. Even though you crawl, I brought you along when I was going to help paint the youth room. I set you down with toys, and then kept an eagle eye on you as I painted. You spent the first half of the time just watching all the activity around you, and the rest of the time happily holding various toys as you switched between playing and people-watching. Several volunteers commented you were amazing; they admitted their own children would have been in the paint or would have been off exploring from the get-go.

"I'm fond of some of the knit toys my mommy made me"

We went out to brunch one morning, and while we were waiting to be seated, you took a fancy to one of the other parties waiting to be seated. In particular, you were fixated on the guy from Central or South America. He, in turn, was quite taken with you. After a few minutes of this behavior, he finally asked if he could hold you (while an unusual request from a stranger, we let him ever so briefly). He was later seated in your line of vision, and this picture below is of you, still drawn to him from a distance of 15 feet.

When out for another meal, our server was even possessed to drop a kiss on your head before the end of the meal; it's hard to resist a baby being so adorable and well-behaved! There was even one occasion a few months back, when we were in Illinois to meet up with your paternal grandparents, that an older woman in a hotel lobby asked to take a picture of you. These requests catch me off guard, but I acquiesced in this case; I don't know why she wanted a picture of you, but I doubted we'd ever cross paths again and if it brought her some measure of happiness, I was fine indulging.

"I pulled these from the diaper bag while Mom watched. And I even got the container open!"

Your eating habits have improved. You eat three meals a day. While you'd be more than delighted if you could subsist on sweet potatoes and cheerios alone, you are still willing to expand your horizons. Other than some puffs and dry cereal that you happily feed yourself, you're still on pureed foods that we feed you (you still haven't mastered chewing, even with five teeth). And whenever you'd grab for the spoon, it was only to finger-paint with the contents. Today, though, there was a breakthrough - you used a spoon to eat the last half of your lunch! We weren't able to recreate this at dinnertime, but I suspect you were too distracted feeding yourself black beans to be bothered with taking over the pureed feeding as well.

Sleep has been wonderful. Bedtime is 7:45 PM, and you typically wake up around 7 AM (sometimes with one wake-up in the middle of the night). You take two naps a day, averaging about 75 minutes each. And you're pretty adept at putting yourself down. I'm so glad you're a sound sleeper. Our new neighbor has a small yappy dog that seems to be let out all hours of the day or night, and there's also a motorcycle revving up as it comes and goes. Seeing as that driveway is right outside your nursery, it's important you can sleep through the noise. Otherwise, we'd be up a dozen times or more trying to lull you back down (it's bad enough that these things wake me up, but I can drift off again).

You love to curl up in a little ball in the crib. You wander all over, from the top corners to the bottom ones out of sight, but the one consistent feature is you on your stomach and near one of the edges, balled up tight.

You have a shoe fetish. You crawl to the door and rearrange all the shoes behind you. You sometimes even collect them in your basket.

You are very inquisitive. If you aren't emptying your diaper bag, trying to see if you can reach the cat fountain before we catch you, or - our least favorite - curious about outlets (quickly secured with safety plugs), you're trying to see what we're doing to figure out how you can get involved. Here I gave you a ball of yarn, and you were so happy with it! This is scary for mommy to see, since that means I have to guard not only against the cats, but against you as well. My yarn is no longer safe...

In line with your curiosity, you love bubbles. You and Dante try to see who can pop the most. However, it's only a matter of time before you're distracted by the bottle of suds, trying to crawl over me to get your hands on it. That's the signal bubble time is over.

 Until you get distracted, though, it's a lot of fun to watch your eyes go wide and your hands flail as bubbles surround you.

While we were late to make the transition, you now take your baths in the tub. We'd been slow to end the sink time since our bathroom is cramped, but we took the doors off the tub, which means it's now much easier to get you in and out and allows us to be easily in reach of you, no matter where you scoot to.

"I can twist my tongue sideways - not even Daddy can do that!"

Anyway,  it's been a full month (and I'm glad my sisters shared their pictures with me!).  You are growing by leaps and bounds, and your personality is emerging even more. I suspect you'll be on your feet even more in the coming month, but, um, feel free to leave the cat fountain alone. Trust me, baths and pools are way more fun to splash around in.