Monday, July 20, 2015

Combating Helplessness

I feel helpless---And so do all my friends.  As I try and process my feelings after Adeline's premature birth and death, I think the most overwhelming thing I feel is helplessness.  I feel helpless when I think about the night I went into labor-- How I "fought" for her, and tried to hang on until morning when the ultrasound would tell us what was wrong.  How I reassured her "Mommy's here, it's going to be ok." How she looked when she was born-- everything.  I just feel helpless.

My friends and family are struggling with it too.  What do you say to someone you love when they go through something like this?  What can you DO when nothing you can say will make it better?  I'm writing this blog post because I've come up with some productive ways to combat this feeling of helplessness and I wanted to share them.

1. Adeline's Garden:
I am Adeline's Mommy. Even though I'll never know her, I still feel the need to do nice things for her-- because I love her.  Also-- and this is important--- I really need to build memories around her that are separate from her death.  I'm finding healing in a few activities, which can honor her memory, and also allow me to think of her without focusing on the horror of the day she was born and died.

The first thing I did was plant a garden.  Specifically, I planted a garden over the spot where we buried her ashes at our church.  We requested that she be buried in a more "unloved" section of the garden, so that we could care for it particularity and give it new life.  I makes me feel really good to go out there and sweat. Whenever I bring her fresh flowers from our yard, our just go out there and pull weeds, it gives me a chance to talk to her, and interact with her in a way that's healthy for me.

Here are a few images of the garden before and after. I chose plants that are significant to me, or symbolic, like forget-me-nots.  We also had her grandparents bring dirt and plants from their yard to plant there with her.  Over her grave, I planted three bleeding hearts, one for me, one for Sean, and one for Millie.

After the first round of planting.

2. Hospital Care Packages
The next thing I did was start knitting. When Adeline was born, we brought her to the hospital.  She was already dead, and we had no idea what to do.  Sean and I were swallowed up by shock and grief. The nurses there were very kind, and offered to take her to the nursery and get her cleaned up.  When they brought her back, she was wearing a hand-knitted baby hat. They said it was the smallest premie hat they could find.  It was enormous, but it has become our most treasured keepsake.

Over the next month, I had severe health complications.  The doctors still aren't quite sure what was happening, but almost every night I was loosing progressively larger amounts of blood.  Their best guess is that it was a condition called placenta accreta-- a rare and life threatening condition for mothers. One night, I lost a quarter of the blood in my body in under an hour.  My blood pressure got down to 60 over 30. I had four blood transfusions, and three surgeries. I went to the hospital 7 times.  Needless to say, I spent a lot of time laying on the couch in recovery mode, and also became very grateful for the wonderful doctors, nurses, and staff on the labor and delivery floors who helped me whenever I was admitted.

I decided to put together care packages for the staff (I was at two different hospitals, so there are two care packages) in appreciation for them, and in honor of Adeline.  I started knitting, and I made all sorts of baby hats, and created patterns for them.  Some of the hats I made are sized for full term babies, but others are designed for premature babies, or stillborn babies like mine who were too young to survive.

Each care package had a photo of our family and a note to the staff, 14 hats, a copy of Millie's Book, and a ton of fancy chocolate and other candy. 

Adeline Hat (Click here for knitting pattern)
Sarah's Premie Hat (Click here for Knitting Pattern)
Rainbow Heart Premie Hat (Click here for knitting pattern)

At least for me-- making these packages has created a sense of activity, and a way for me to participate in my grief. My friends have participated too.  My sister and sister-in-law made hats with me.  My friend Elizabeth crocheted 6 baby hats on her summer vacation.  My friend Heather went to the store and bought me the softest yarn she could find, and my parents donated lots of yummy chocolate to the packages. 

3. Leaning on Friends and Family
We have the best Friends-- we really do. There are so many people in our community who have stepped up and asked "can I do something?" I think, like me, people feel helpless and even though they can't make it better--- want to do something to show that they care. A lot of people brought us food, which was a big help.  Still more wrote us cards, often sharing their experience as members of the super secret awful club.  Once, when I had to rush to the hospital, my neighbors invaded our house and vacuumed, did laundry, dishes, and even cleaned out our fridge. Some people walked our dog. Some people watched our kid.  Some people sent flowers or live plants. My mother-in-law stayed with us for a week, and meticulously wiped down ALL of our surfaces, even the ones behind the microwave and toaster ovens.

I'm not saying any of this has cured my helplessness, but every bit helped.  I'm still really struggling with my emotional recovery, and seeking out professional support.  Just this morning, as I was crying and blow drying my hair, Sean came in with a package.  It was from my best friend, Stacy.

I know what you're thinking--Yes, my best friend IS awesome.

It was a beautiful pair of earrings with a supportive and loving note, just to say "I'm thinking of you, and I know you can get through this." It's hard to feel helpless when you have friends like that.

I hope this post is useful to others if you are struggling like me. I hope you can find a positive outlet for your grief and energy.  If you are looking for ways to support someone else, know this-- your kind actions are so important and buoying-- even if your friends are to numb to acknowledge them at the time.