Thursday, November 29, 2012

No More Guilt

It wasn't until recently that I came to a conclusion that really made sense to me. Tomorrow would have been Jude's due date (likely inaccurate, but it was his first and only due date so I go with it). To say I've been an emotional mess would be an understatement. I imagine a lot of spam mail from various parenting/baby websites to send me e-mails congratulating me on my due date. I'm as prepared as I can be, but nothing will stop me from crying. I've accepted it.

Everyone has lost someone, and I realize this. As we've gotten older we've lost grandparents, parents, siblings, friends, etc. In the last two years alone my husband lost both of his grandparents on his dad's side, and a few years before that lost his grandfather and a cousin on his mom's side of the family. He's even lost one of his best friends, which happened to be my older brother.

Even though Chris' death hurt me, and it still does, I kept trying to figure out why it didn't hurt me as bad as losing an unborn child. I mean, Chris and I spent most all of our lives together living under the same roof. We grew up in my parents house, and then when I did "move out" it was into a house with Chris. If we weren't fighting, we were best friends -- he trusted me with a lot of secrets, some of which I still hold onto today.

So I felt guilty, really guilty, that it didn't take me as long to be able to talk about him without breaking down into tears. I can say Jude's name and be okay, but I have so many triggers that will set me off that I have often times nearly gone into a panic attack over them. The last time I broke down over Chris was when I found out I was pregnant, and I realized he would never get to be there for it like he was for Lily. Granted, my meltdown, as Trey will attest, ended shortly thereafter with the declaration that I needed to puke. I realized that meltdowns while pregnant were not a good thing that night, and tried to stay positive after that.

Then a few days ago it hit me. I shouldn't feel guilty about this. I shouldn't feel guilty because I had my time with Chris; we had our memories, we shared things together. We were as thick as thieves one minute, and hated each others guts the next. I went through a lot with Chris, and we were there for each other. We made memories that I'll hold onto for a lifetime. The reason Jude affects me is because while, yes, he was my baby and I carried him, I also didn't have any memories of him. There was nothing I could hold onto, unless you count the times I cursed and cried while I puked in the bathroom. Those are definitely not memories I want to really remember fondly, though I do in some ways now (especially the time I nearly killed Trey for daring to be on the toilet when I had to puke, or the time Lily asked me if I was okay).

I have no physical memories of Jude except one: holding him, wrapped up in a blanket, and cry over my baby boy.

So should I feel guilty for feeling this way? No. I realize that now. I had my time with my brother, and I know he spent his last days before falling ill in a place he truly loved. I know he's happier now. I also realized that even though at the time I had that meltdown over Chris not getting to know Jude like I'd hoped for, he's getting to know him now. I guess you're supposed to rest easy in that thought...

But you don't know my brother.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Not a lot of people know this about me, but I'm a very anxious person. So much that I tend to avoid trying new things, meeting new people, etc. It scares me -- it's not that I think I'm too weird, or that I have nothing of value to say; actually, I know I can be good company. It's just this irrational fear of what I don't know that binds me to my comfort zone. The thing is, nothing good has ever come from staying in your comfort zone, has it? You really do have to get out of your zone in order to be a better person than the one you are now.

It's not that I don't feel that I'm not a good person, but I don't feel like I'm being the best person I know I can be. There is such a huge difference there. Lately, I've been doing the little things to be better -- be more attentive to my daughter, and be a better wife to my husband. I've spent more time trying to tidy the house than I have since I moved here. A little step for some, but it's so huge for me. I lived in a household where I got away with a lot of things -- too much, even. I knew I could always count on mom to clean up my mess when I didn't want to do it. Would she get mad? Hell yes, but she would still end up doing the work for me. I'd feel guilty for it and "try" to help, but not really. I half-assed a lot of things I did. Because of that...well, let's just say I'm not a tidy person in the least. I could definitely be better.

No one else who walked into my house today would notice the difference, though. At least my husband does, and that's all that matters. If we're not stepping on toys in the living room, or dishes aren't piled up to take over the entire counter then we have a clean house.

But it's not just because I want to be a better housewife that I'm trying to be, generally, a better person. It's not housework that makes me anxious -- frustrated, yes. This is just one tiny step for me to help me break out of the sink hole my mind has been in the last few months. I want to take these small steps so I can tackle the bigger ones later on. One big one on our mind? Moving out.

I made peace with the fact that Trey and I would likely not live in another place alone, as a family, for a long time. My biggest problem for a while was trying to find someone who could put up with our family. Thankfully, I've found a few that I could trust. Now we're all talking big game about moving, but it's easier to talk than do. It's not that I can't see myself living in my grandparent's old house for a while; it's just that I don't think it's the right place for us. For now it's holding up, but I've been noticing things that we'd have to invest in to keep it up. We keep throwing it by the wayside since, for now, our financial situation is tight. Plus, this house doesn't really belong to us and it doesn't feel right for me to fix it up the way I'd like. It's just not "our house".

So I'm anxious. I'm anxious if these big steps will be another bust, or if I can keep up the small ones to make myself at least be a better person than the one I am now. I want this not just for me, but for my daughter -- she's so important to me, especially now. It's easier to see how much your child means to you when you've lost one. Sometimes you forget with all of the frustrations that do come with having a child of your own. I'm seeing now that I haven't been the best mom in recent months. It's hard to admit it, but it's true. I may have been there physically going through the steps, but I wasn't there mentally. It's been a talk Trey and I have had many times in the past few weeks. He understands because he witnessed it, and he picked up the slack for me. Not once did he blame or judge me for it; he patiently waited for me to come to that realization on my own.

It's hard breaking old habits, though. I've especially noticed that in the last week when I kept telling myself: "I'll wake up at 7:00 so I can exercise and get into shape!" -- yeah, right. Do you really think I woke up before 9:30 at all this past week?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time there was a girl and a boy who fell in love. The girl was nearly seventeen to the boy's nearly twenty years of age. No one really expected them to stay together; their first two years were pretty good, but they hit their rough patch with very little grace and dignity. The girl resorted to making sure that everyone knew their business, and the boy took everything in stride.


Even though the girl had commitment issues, having seen families surrounding her torn apart over the years, she still found herself coming back to that boy every time. Maybe she felt that she was a glutton for punishment, or that she was just too scared to move on. One fact remained true: it was harder to push away from one another completely because of how close as friends the two were. They had clicked in a way that before they truly knew they were going to be in a relationship, they would be great friends first and foremost. The secrets and memories shared together rivaled those of even her best friends. Regardless, the couple continued on in their cycle of on-again, off-again.


But then, one day, something happened to change their lives. They were nowhere near perfect for one another, but for whatever reason they were still together. On that day they were on again, and in what the girl would refer to as "a good place". However, there was the lingering thoughts of what this would mean for them as they both stared down in shock at the positive pregnancy test before their very eyes. Once they had settled down, and the nerves had ended there had only been one thing left to say: "If you want to leave, I understand. If you don't want to have a child together, I understand. Just realize that I will have this child, once this child is born and knows you as its father you can't back out."


He never backed downed, and she changed her tune. She saw him for what he truly was in those few months leading up to the birth of their daughter. She had been wrong all along -- and she even admitted to it. While she knew she loved him to some degree she had never fully admitted to how much she loved him. It wasn't until she saw him hold their daughter that something in her clicked; she was tired of feeling as though she had to rely on only herself anymore. She was tired of worrying about the future instead of living in the present. She was tired of denying how much she truly loved the boy she had been with for years.


That's how it all started. It didn't start with a bang, but a fizzle. From the day I saw Trey as a father instead of a lover was the day I knew this man was the man to spend the rest of my life with. It took years to get to that point, to finally admit to something I was so scared of doing. His dedication to our family from the beginning had me, and I demanded a year later that he marry me. Alright, so maybe "demanded" isn't the best word to use, but I persisted. Forgetting tradition, I told him we were engaged and when we would be married. The two weeks leading up to our wedding were what I would have considered a rough patch then. I even said: "I don't care how you truly feel about me right now, but I expect you to tell me I'm beautiful and love me on our wedding day."


I don't know why people expect that the love doesn't go away in a relationship, but I'm here to tell you that IT DOES. There will be so many days, weeks, months where you can go without truly loving someone the way you did when you first met, first kisses, etc. Trey and I went through weeks where we barely spoke; not because we were mad at one another, but because we just lost interest in one another. Even through that we kept going, though. We promised ourselves we would not go out without a fight to the end.


And last year it seemed as though the fighting had begun. Maybe it wasn't the rough patches between each other that were the real threat, but it was the threat of having lost his grandmother and my brother. It changed us, it brought out the worst in us -- we were brokenhearted people trying to help mend each other's hearts. It was causing a rift because we were so down on ourselves, and so out of it. Then add an incident that got blown out of the roof and threatened to tear us apart -- we were still so broken then, and it only caused a bigger rift.


Our ship, so it seemed, was unsinkable though. We made it through, we forgave one another, and we mended each other's hearts the best we knew how. It was the discussions and talks we had on a regular basis with one another; the no-hold bars of deep conversation that kept us together. If one of us felt down, the other would talk us through it. We fought through it, and we came to a good place.


Then Jude happened. Handsome, wonderful Jude. My baby boy. Another loss, another chance for us to be torn to pieces -- but it turned out differently this time. Oh, I cried. I cried many times in those first couple of nights, but it was Trey there to comfort me every step of the way. He told me it was okay to cry, and okay to talk to him whenever I began to feel the slightest bit of sadness. It was Trey that made me see the bright side of things. We had been close before Jude, yes, but never as close as we were now.


It's 12:24 am as I write this, overcome with love for the man who not only gave me a new hope for my future, but also helped me reach goals I never expected for myself. He was there in the worst of times just as much as the best of times. He helped me start a family that I adore and love beyond words. Our marriage might not always be perfect like this, but tonight it is perfect.


Happy 2nd Anniversary, my love. It may officially be two years of marriage, but it's been nine of the most intense years of my life with you and I wouldn't trade it for all the gold in the world.


Forever and always,
Brooke

Friday, July 13, 2012

Brain, meet lightbulb.

One of my bucket lists is to read the entire Harry Potter series to Lillian when she gets old enough to enjoy them. However, when I got to thinking "what if I'm not around when she'd old enough?" I had a moment where I panicked. I hadn't thought about it at that angle until today. It's a constant struggle for me not to think about the what ifs in life, and with Jude gone so suddenly I can't help it. I can't imagine my life without my Kidlet in it, but I never thought -- until tonight anyway -- about how she would cope if I wasn't in hers.


So I had the bright idea to record myself reading a chapter each night before bed, one video per chapter. Then once I have those I'll put them on an external hard drive and store them away -- I'll even store them on DVDs and replace them if they get damaged. Basically, I will constantly be making sure that these videos make it in the future. Somehow this entire idea seems very, very precious to me. Even if I'm around to read them to her out loud later in her life, I can imagine her looking at them on occasion when I'm not around.


I don't always have tomorrow. Will I live like I do? Of course, but I won't pretend that it can't happen. I don't have very many videos where I hear my brother, Chris, talking. The ones I do are often ones where he is behind the camera. I still cherish those videos despite how silly most of them are. So I feel like I need to do this; me, and even my husband if he agrees, in front of the camera doing something we love to do.


Reading out loud to our baby girl.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The (Wo)man In The Mirror

Today has been hard; maybe not as hard as the previous few days, but it's still been rough. I woke up feeling sick with a sore throat, and it seemed as though my daughter had planned all along to drive me nuts with her bad attitude. My hormones are still completely out of whack, just as I expected, but I wish I could just go back to "normal" in that department. It's becoming harder and harder not to simply break down in front of Lillian when she gives me attitude. I did manage, though. I was harsh, but not too harsh and I think I only did it when I knew it was needed. The truth is, I'm not sure anymore what is the right way and what is the wrong way.


For months, even before I got pregnant with Jude, I became detached from everything around me. I would zone out for hours on end if I could, and I stopped being the mother I had expected to be. I was depressed, I was stressed out, and I was angry. I felt like everything I had done had failed, and that I wasn't worth anything to anyone; even my own family. I'm terrified now that I'm going to go back to being that same person. It took having my son's life taken away for me to realize that my recent "normal self" was not the real me. I'm not sure what all caused it in the end to happen like that, but I have my suspicions. My life shouldn't be a sob story because I have a beautiful family, a husband that loves me even at the worst of times, and a beautiful daughter that is as smart as a whip.


With people tugging me this way and that, telling me all kinds of things I just don't want to listen to or deal with right now, I've found so much comfort in my husband recently than I have in months. It's those talks with him that have really made me realize that there has to be some changes in my life. I will never be the same person I was before Jude was taken from me, and I'm okay with that because that wasn't me. I can fake it all I want to other people, but I haven't been myself in a long time. It's time to change. I'm not sure what kind of changes will take place, but since there are so many paths I've wondered if I should take I suppose a little experimenting wouldn't hurt. Maybe I'll go back to school, maybe I'll go back to work, maybe I'll continue to stay at home and be better than I was before? I'm determined now to change.


Thank you, my baby boy. You've really opened my eyes. Mommy loves you.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Jude

On Monday morning, at 5:45 we made our way to the hospital for our scheduled appointment that was set at 6:30. At least, I was supposed to be admitted at 6:30 anyway. We get there and I go to the Admissions office. There is only one woman there, and she seems to be taking her sweet time with a couple sitting there. I'm not sure if she really was taking her sweet time, but I was just so anxious and my nerves were so shot I was feeling like everything was going too slow. When I finally got to talk to her, she told me I'd have to go to the ER and be admitted there. So she handed me a slip of paper and sent me on my way. I should have remembered that my OB, Dr. Harper, told me to go through the ER entrance. That was my bad, but when I got to the ER they informed me I should go to Outpatient Surgery. I couldn't help but laugh as we went to Outpatient Surgery, explained our situation, and then have all hell break loose. "Dr. Harper isn't here and we don't have you scheduled."


They were supposed too, I said. And Dr. Harper was supposed to be here. "Oh, okay, I see. You need to go back to ER to be admitted." -- after a ton of calls we went back to the ER and I told them my name. Well, my name was being listed under my maiden name for some reason, and that's why they didn't catch the problem in the first place. So with that little drama out of the way, I went up to L&D and got into my room. The nurses came in about 15-20 minutes later and lo and behold -- the computer wasn't coming on. They could not log me in. They also could not find anything that should have been stocked in the room and ready to go. Through these moments I began to have a panic attack, and I began to shake uncontrollably. But even through that, I laughed over the technology screwing up and nothing going right so far. I began to hum "Manic Monday" in my head, and even continued to tell the nurses it was "just another manic Monday."


We were moved to a room down the hall, and had the same problems at first. My nurse Pam, God bless her soul, was getting frustrated with everything going wrong that day. I remember them all smiling when I turned to Pam, smiled and told her: "Don't get frustrated, take a deep breath. Count to ten. Things will work out." and my wonderful husband, Trey, who couldn't help but laugh over the fact that I was now trying to calm my nurses' nerves down rather than worry about my own. That seemed to be the theme for the day; even through my anxiety and the shaking I began to worry about everyone else but myself. After the computer began to work and I was settled in for the long haul my parents and husband mentioned wanting breakfast, and even though Trey said he would stay with me I began to scold him and tell him that I would be fine for 30 minutes by myself. So my mom mentioned staying, and it was through consistent: "Are you sure?" conversations that I finally managed to kick them out of the room long enough to eat. I even had the time to tell my husband to eat, but not eat a heavy meal, since I know how sensitive his stomach is in the mornings.


Hours passed by with very little to show for it except a pretty consistent, dull ache in my abdomen. We watched a lot of TV in those hours; everything from Price Is Right to Judge Mathis. Apparently, you can get a lot of money if you sue someone because their dog killed your goat. When the pain began to build up a bit more, I asked for some medicine to help me get through it. I could have lasted longer, but along with the pain came a throbbing headache that really knocked me for a loop. When they brought me some pain medication and told me that it would make me feel drunk and dizzy "for a bit" they had not been lying! The thing is, it did not last "for a bit". I had told them I was medicine intolerant since normally, at home, I won't take medicine for pain unless I really feel I can't handle it on my own. So once the effects of the drug began, I was pretty out of it. I just remember that I was talking a lot, but everything around me seemed out of sync. Especially my mouth; I felt like I sounded drunk. I'm sure I did since half of the time my husband and parents were trying to hide grins from me after I would say something.


I also remember hearing a baby crying in another room. It was at that moment that I turned to my husband and saw the pain in his eyes. I told him that the sound would kill me, and he began to complain that there should be "another wing of the hospital" for "people in our situation". It seemed from then on things began to progress pretty quickly, but it still took hours. Before I knew it I was ready to push, and Dr. Harper came in to help me. My nurses relayed my request to Dr. Harper, who agreed and they began to prep me. Now, I was scared with Lily but I don't remember being this scared. The shaking became almost unbearable, and my entire body felt as if it went into lock down. I was afraid I would never stop long enough to push, but somehow I did. It only took two pushes, and it was over. They took my baby away long enough to examine, and Dr. Harper came back.


"It appears to be a boy," She told me, but that was not all she had to say. "We can take him to get tested if you want, but we found his umbilical cord wrapped three times tightly around his leg. That appears to be why his heart stopped."


I went limp. I began to cry, but at the same time some sort of peace washed over me. I could see my handsome little Jude Raleigh Wheeler every time I closed my eyes. I had a dream about him, about what he would look like, a few days previous to coming into the hospital. He was still smiling just as much as he had in my dreams. I declined the testing; I knew nothing was wrong with him. He was a healthy boy. He had just gotten himself all caught up. It was just an accident, and it was clear to me that there was nothing I could have done any better to keep it from happening. So I asked to hold my handsome boy, but I asked that they cover him. I knew what he looked like as my healthy boy, and I did not want to lose that image to another. He had shown me his face in my dreams, and that was good enough for me. So he was laid on my chest, and it was the most awkward holding I'd ever dealt with. It's not that I didn't know what to do, but between him being so tiny and the drugs making my body weak I just could not get a good enough hold on him. As he laid on my chest I could feel him near, as well as a few others I had no seen in a while. I could not see them, I could not hear them, but I could feel them there with me. My brother was one of those that I could feel near. It was a huge comfort to me, and the tears slowly stopped coming.


In all honesty, I thought that it would take weeks to find out what had happened, and what the sex of the baby would have been. I had expected to play another waiting game, and that is one of the things that I felt would hurt the worst. So having such a clear understanding of what happened, of who my baby boy was, shocked me and at the same time made me so relieved I wasn't sure how to react. The tears would still come, but it was not as hard to say goodbye as I thought. Because my mother was there, and because I felt this need inside of me, I told her she could hold him if she wanted. I knew she needed to say goodbye in the same way I did; by holding him close. She stood over me, prayed over him, and then went to rock him for a moment. My husband, though he was hurting, could not bring himself to hold his son. I reassured him that I understood completely his decision; he and I both have different ways of coping, and I knew there was no reason for force him into something he didn't want to do. We called for the nurses to come and take our little Jude away, and Dr. Harper asked me if I had any specific plans. Jude was too young to donate to science, like I would have liked, but I knew that we would be saying our final goodbye to him in the hospital and nowhere else. It just felt like the right thing to do; I had no plans outside of the hospital and trying to figure things out would just cause more stress and pain for my family than I wanted. So I was okay, and I had no regrets, with letting the hospital handle him. I knew they would take good care of him and treat him with the respect he deserved.


Not too soon after I was wheeled down to the 2nd floor; the doctors and my family had decided that it might be better for me not to be on the 4th floor with the mother's who had their babies; it was a good call on their part, since I had been so out of it and so tired I could barely speak. They settled me into my room for the night, and one of the nurses brought me a turkey sandwich. I did not realize how hungry I was until I began eating the sandwich. Trey even ordered some pizza to be delivered to our room because we were both so hungry. The food helped to bring me back to a state that I could walk back and forth to the bathroom without falling over. When my father-in-law called my husband answered it, but Trey was just too exhausted and frustrated to really talk about what we had just gone through. Somehow, I got the phone from Trey and talked to my father-in-law about everything that had happened; I explained everything to him, and yet I felt so at peace that I did not feel any need to cry or meltdown. I figured the medication was just that good, or I was just too tired to be able to think. Around 10:30 that night my sister-in-law called me up, mid-meltdown, and Trey and I had to reassure her that it we were okay, and that everything would be fine in the end.


I realize now, now that the drugs have worn off, why I felt so at peace that night. You see, every time I dosed off I would wake up to a baby crying or cooing. It took me a few times to register that there were no babies on the 2nd floor, and that the sound was coming from inside the room. I've always believed in ghostly being and the like; my daughter saw my brother the morning after he died playing in a sandbox, and I had seen many things in my own home the first three weeks after he died as well, including seeing a shadow form of him. So when I realized that the noises coming from inside were not from the TV (it was on mute) but from my baby boy, sleep became easier and more serene. It was like he was telling me: "It's okay, mommy. I don't hurt anymore." and it made everything better. He was there that night, and I cherished it with every ounce of my being.


By morning I was ready to go. I felt okay except for being a bit lightheaded, and the drugs I had been on the day before was still in my system. I told my husband it felt like I was tripping out, and by the time I was released and in the car with Trey I realized how much was truly still in my system. The paranoia of how fast he was driving, how close he was to other cars, etc. was just too much. I had to lay back and close my eyes throughout most of the trip home. However, as we left the hospital I felt like I had left something there; it felt as if a tiny piece of my heart and soul had been taken from me. I suddenly felt heavy and the peaceful Brooke started to fade away. Even though I still feel that way after being home, I know that things will be okay. I can sit here and cry, and mourn for my Jude, but I can also sit here and feel at ease knowing that I have a beautiful baby girl who's missed her mommy. It's really helped me throughout the day, but there is never a promise that things will be okay tomorrow. I'm just going to take it a step at a time, a day at a time.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Many Ghosts

This past weekend has been the most difficult time for myself and my husband. Let me start out by saying I have an amazing family; I have a loving husband and a beautiful daughter. We had not planned to add to our family anytime soon, but apparently fate had other plans for us. We got pregnant back in March, and I discovered that this pregnancy was not going to be the cake walk that it was with my firstborn.


Oh, how I wish I could go back to my first trimester and relive those moments of morning sickness, total exhaustion, and irritability! On Wednesday, June 27th, I went to the ER with some minor bleeding and back pain. I came out confused; the doctor had said that she couldn't detect a heartbeat, but informed me that since she wasn't in the ultrasound room it was hard for her to detect because it "wasn't in real time". Um, so then you couldn't detect it or the ultrasound tech couldn't either? Apparently, the ultrasound tech couldn't tell me anything, as it was against the doctor's policy. I was very confused and frustrated, but told myself I'd wait for the following day to go to the OB-GYN visit I was scheduled for.


The day of the appointment my wonderful sister-in-law went with me; my husband was exhausted from the previous ER visit and assured me things were probably just fine, and I agreed with him and told him it was okay for him to stay at home "this time". I was called back for an ultrasound, and within five minutes I was given the news no woman wants to hear: "The baby doesn't have a heartbeat."


My heart stopped, my breath caught in my throat. This was just one of those unreal moments and I was in a state of shock. At first I didn't cry, and I couldn't say anything. I just sat there looking at the screen at the little baby and tried to search for a sign of life. Maybe the tech was wrong, and would find it in a second? Maybe the machine was broken? Maybe, maybe, maybe...


But maybe never came. She turned on the doppler and I could hear nothing. That's when I lost it.


It's hard any way you look at it, but it's especially hard when you had some expectations that would never be met. My brother had died back in August, and my hope for this baby was to bring some life back into our family; remind us that life goes on and everything will be okay, but this wasn't the case. Not only did I lose my brother last year, but now not even a whole year later I lose a child. My baby, my Rose or my Jude, will never get to experience the joys and sorrows of life on Earth. I will never get to see my second child grow up and be the man or the woman I hoped for.


Tomorrow morning I go into the hospital to take some medicine that will help speed up the process of making me miscarry this beautiful baby. I'm petrified; not of the procedure, not of the pain, but what comes after. Will I make the right choices for my baby? Will I live with this guilt the rest of my life? I'm the type who wants to plan ahead, and now the carefully laid plans I had have been taken from me.


Now I'm left wondering what to expect when you're no longer expecting...