Friday, April 17, 2009

No Patents Pending

This is going to go over like a ton of bricks. I'm already gearing up for the horrible comments. A half-gallon container of cookie dough should do the trick. Also, to Snarky Mama and my dear readers who care about my worries. I mean it. This post was not sparked by one particular incident, or one specific person. These are thoughts that have been brewing for WEEKS. Seriously, I mean weeks. So, there's no real "back story", I promise. And when I write to "you", I'm being very general.

Before I get started, I want to thank the sweethearts (CleverGirl and
Sarah) who nominated me for the "Sisterhood Award", as well as the other mothers of lost babies that I've met through blogging...the ones who see me for the woman and mother I am, and refrain from judgement. You can't imagine how much I appreciate you, and your kind comments. Thank you for understanding that it's acceptable, a good thing even, to find life after loss. I have never met you, but I love you. You know who you are.

The rest of this post is the blog equivalent of skating on thin ice. But, this is my blog. And it's all about unlocking the silence, my silence. Obviously, as I do what I come to this spot to do, there will be those who do not want to hear what I have to say. I feel pretty confident this will be one of those times.

Over the past weeks, I've been thinking a lot about patents. Not the ones you find in the world of inventors and businesses, but other kinds. Patents on grief, patents on Christianity, patents on political opinions, the list goes on and on. I it just human nature? This drive to believe we are so unique, to believe our experiences are so unlike anyone else's, that they warrant our holding patents on such things as universal as grief and opinions?

One of the greatest lessons I've learned in my life is that it's unnecessary and thoughtless to compare our pain to that of someone else. What rips your heart to shreds, what suffocates you to near death, will not be the things that hurt the person next to you. No one holds the patent on suffering, and why would anyone want to?

There are some who feel I don't belong in a "circle" of mothers who have lost babies. Why? Because my daughter died 12 years ago. Apparently if she had died 12 days, 12 weeks, or 12 months ago, I would be welcome. Unbelievable.

If you feel that way, I want you to know that I truly understand your grief and anger. If you took the time to read any of my "Posts that Matter", you would quickly see that I was a shattered woman for many years. My heart breaks for you. I am deeply sorry that you are in such agony.

But the fact remains that I am saddened by any exclusion in the world of motherly sorrow and loss. Forget about me. It's unsettling for me to think of any woman in need of healing and support being pushed aside because her loss does not fit certain criteria. It's unfortunate this happens. I've heard from women who have felt the sting of exclusion. Heartbreaking. To insinuate that a person's pain is not raw enough, not recent enough, to warrant her as a woman on a grief actually makes me feel sick. My grief no longer holds me hostage, and I have found peace and solace, but I will forever be on a journey....just like every woman I know (whether she has buried a child or not). There are countless journeys to be made in this life. Each one is of vast importance to the person doing the travelling.

I will never apologize for the woman I am today. I won't do it. It would be a slap in the face of so many who helped me on my journey...first and foremost, my Savior. But also, my beloved husband (I was so terrible to him, he really could have just walked right on out the door, never looking back) and my precious angel daughter. I often questioned if she even knew me. Now I know she was always there, cheering me on, when I felt utterly alone and wished this life would end.

Come to think of it, to apologize for being the woman I am today, would be a slap in my own face. I did my grief work. It was excruciating and I was pretty sure I might die. But, I did it. No one will take that victory from me, and I won't say I'm sorry for the results.

I greatly admire
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore. She wrote this on her blog today: "Elie Wiesel said that 'whosoever survives the test, whatever it may be, must tell his story....that is his duty.' Within that duty, implicitly, is the necessity to help others who also fall into the darkness of the human experience. If no memory remained of our sufferings, how would we tell our story? Would our story really be our story at all?"

So, I tell my story. Do you think I've forgotten how silent that delivery room was? Do you think I have forgotten how it felt when the nurse took my daughter from me. I was crumpled in a helpless, wailing and heaving ball on that hospital bed...there was nothing I could do, I knew my precious child would be spending the night of her birth in a morgue. Do you think I have forgotten how quickly the short time we had with our daughter passed? How I just wanted one more moment with her, just one more? And her funeral? I will always remember that as I left my daughter's grave, I believed I was a miserable failure...unworthy of being called a mother. Do you think that I don't fear the loss of the three children I've had since Victoria? It's the only thing in this life that I'm afraid of. And I find it so terrifying, just the thought makes my chest hurt and leaves me feeling as though I can't breathe. Every time I'm asked how many children I have, or each time we take a family picture, I am painfully aware that someone is missing. Twelve years doesn't erase a thing. The pain just becomes less suffocating, less all-encompassing.

But, there is more to my story than pain and suffering, more to me than hurt and despair. If my unlocked silence brings you nothing positive, please don't read what I have to share. As a mother who has walked the path you now face, I would hope you only do those things that help you find solace. If you don't find it here, just know that I wish you, from the depths of my soul, peace and happiness. You are tremendously blessed to have the blogging world, where you can find other's who are hurting as you are. It's a resource I didn't have when I lost my daughter. I felt that no one around me could really understand. I had to edit most everything that was going on in my head. I won't ever do that again, regardless of how much time has passed since my loss.

I will not apologize for finally choosing to find joy in this life. There will be no apologies for my love of laughter. I will stand as a testament to others who are hurting. You can do this, you will survive. Thankfully, I have come miles and miles. I pray the same for you. Each one of us has paid our dues, in rivers of tears and pieces of broken hearts. And I can guarantee if someone ever tries to push you out of that "circle", the one you never wanted to join in the first place, you'll be hurt too. There is no patent on grief and suffering.

I will not apologize for my political fire. There's a lot wrong in this world. I won't be the woman sitting idly by, watching things unfold before me, as if I have no say in this life. You feel I am too "angry" about politics. Could you explain to me why I shouldn't be? If I'm not mistaken, women wouldn't even have the right to vote if somebody hadn't been "angry" about politics as usual. If people hadn't been "angry" about politics as usual, an infinite number of things in this country would never have been improved upon. And tell me why I shouldn't be angry about own government feels the agendas of the ACLU, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood are more important than giving me a Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth for my child!

But, you're probably right, I shouldn't be so "angry". Pretending it's not happening, or better yet, just hugging each other and throwing up a peace sign, well that's gonna fix it all. No one holds the patent on political opinions. Just because you disagree with me doesn't make you correct, and vice versa. But, when a group of political activists' opinions on the "legal status of a fetus" outweigh opportunities for grieving parents to be issued certificates for their babies, you can bet I'm gonna go with "angry".

I have every intention of raising this country's awareness of stillbirth and the issues surrounding such loss. I want to be involved in changing the way we view death and mourning. Those of us who have experienced stillbirth know all to well the silence. I am not speaking only of the silence of deliveries. I am speaking of the silence we find as we make our attempts at redifining our lives after loss. The silence I know pains so many mothers and fathers. I will work until my own death to make certain the silence surrounding stillbirth is unlocked. There are many others working to do the same. Carly is truly a treasure. Her sweet spirit touches thousands upon thousands. I have thought how I wish I were more like her. You visit her blog, learn about her projects, and you will only feel uplifted. She is amazing. I am not. Carly has a gift that I don't have. I am in awe of her. She accepts me, snark and all. That isn't to say she agrees with all that I write. But, Carly has helped me realize that each of us plays a very individualized role in unlocking the silence of stillbirth and baby loss. Thank you Carly.

If you knew me you would know that I'm actually quite enjoyable to be around. There are certain issues that cause me to feel angry, but they do not dominate my life. I understand that you feel anger dominating a life is ok, as long as that anger is due to grief. Since my anger is directed politically, you make the incorrect judgement that I'm an angry person.

Lately I've noticed the word snarky getting a bad rap. You choose to believe that because I happen to get a happy kick out of a good dose of sarcasm and snarkiness, that I'm incapable of compassion and that I'm intentionally controversial. Ridiculous. Guess I'm a bit of an oddball...I find sarcasm and snarkiness entertaining. You don't? Whatever. Bite me. (fyi: that was just a little snarky joke, and shouldn't be used against me in your quest to label me as an angry elf)

I guess the bottom line is that I'm just really not going anywhere. This is me, in my spot, doin' what I do. Love me or leave me, that's the beauty of the blog. I'm happy. I love my life, even with all of its unsolicited adventures and stresses. I have a wonderful husband, four precious children, and faith capable of moving every mountain meant to be moved. There are stresses and tears in my home, but it's more often flooded with laughter and good times. I know God lives. I know my Savior lives and loves me. I'm finding joy and peace in my journey, even on the crappiest of days. I hope you can too. Because, there's a ton of joy and peace to go around, especially considering the fact that no one holds the patent on either of them.


Shauna said...

I am, and will forever be in awe of you. Thank you for your voice, your strength and your courage to stand up for what is right...especially in cases where others might not have the strength to do so. Love, Shauna

DawnS said...

Another amazing post Natalie. You are right, it's your story - no one else has a right to tell you how you should or shouldn't feel. Your experiences have made you the beloved child of God that you are today and there is no shame in that. We all suffer pain and loss at some point but you can't stay there, you must move on. I don't understand people that make judgements against that. I have not buried a child, but the losses that I have suffered are with me daily even as I go on to live a joy filled life. I love your straight forward honesty - I think you're awesome! I gotta run now, my girl is waiting for Mommy/daughter day but I had to comment before I left.

Barbara said...


The grief olympics again? My grief is worse because it happened more recently, my pregnancy was further along... etc etc... I've heard it too. It's CRAP!

Grief is grief is grief, one day, one month, one year, twelve years. Your grief is your own and no one should have the insensitivity to tell you how to feel. People tell me I should be over it by now and I should have moved on and I tell them that I AM moving on but I'll never be over it.

Natalie, women like you give me hope for my own future. I CAN do this, I CAN live with my sadness, my joy and laughter side by side and in twelve years time it will be ok for me to still miss my son, to still feel sorrow at the loss of the twelve year old who might have been.

You're an incredibly precious part of my "circle."

Cookie dough ice cream? I'm on my way!


Sue said...

Amen, Sistah!

I'm sorry that you are apparently getting hurtful comments from people who think that because they are hurting it's okay to hurt others. Or maybe they just aren't thinking at all. Whatever. The point is, you're right. No one holds a monopoly on suffering...or joy. And life is not a series of exclusive clubs forged by levels of happiness and sorrow experienced in any given time frame. We're all in this together.

And I am with YOU. All the way. Rain or shine. Winter or summer. Spring or fall. Snarkiness or absence of same.


(And I am far from alone in this feeling.)


Emily said...

When I first realized that, 12 years later, I would still cry over my son, I had two reactions: one was freeing- I knew that I could laugh today, because I would cry again tomorrow, and I wouldn't have to fear forgetting about my son; my other reaction was despair-I knew I would never be the same. It hit me that this loss was more like losing a limb- I would have to learn to walk, to live with this loss forever.

I so much appreciate people like you, who are farther along the road, talking about your loss, telling us what's it like from your perspective, and NOT KEEPING SILENT!!

Thanks for writing.

Mary said...

This is the first post that I have read of yours. I am totally in like of you. I am so sorry that people are blinded by their own greif. I hope to one day be where you are, still missing and loving my son but with the ablity to be me whatever that maybe.

Frosty said...

Natalie-I too lost two babies due to miscarriage. Tough, not a week goes by I don't think of these (two) sweet spirits. I've been told too, that I didn't lose babies, they weren't real. Snarky, they WERE/ARE real, just like Victoria.

And for the record, in the "Frosty" dictionary Snarky reads:

Snarky: Courageous, Brave, Bold, Victorious (in memory of Victoria!), and my favorite BEAUTIFUL!


jen said...

This post comes as a surprise to me. I have never felt like you were anything other than you--not hypocritical, not self-righteous, not perfect.
What makes us all love you is your realness--life sometimes sucks. Life sometimes brings inexpressible joy. But most of life is just riding the middle of the road in between those hills and valleys, remembering the lessons we've learned so that we don't have to go through those experiences again.
When I lost my baby, our RS president came over. She sat down on the couch, looked me straight in the eye, and said, "Even though I've lost people I love, I still don't know how to do this." I truly appreciated her honesty. Her experience? Losing her husband to cancer after a miraculous recovery and a miracle baby who was three at the time her dad died. Was her loss worse than mine? In my perspective, yes. Did that minimize or lessen what I was experiencing? No. And she recognized the misery of my situation without focusing on how much "worse" hers had been. I'll never forget that. Even though we've "been through it," we still don't know how to "do it."
Another note. When I lost my daughter, another lady in my ward, a saint if ever there was, expressed her sorrow for me. She had lost one of twins when he was six years old to leukemia. I thanked her for her thoughts, and then expressed sorrow at her loss, which at the time was five years in the past. She said, "At least I have memories of Josh. You never even knew your child." That right there is the summary of stillbirth. Never knowing. And no one else knowing either.
Keep your chin up. I love you so!

SnarkyMama said...

Amazing...simply amazing...that is what every one of you are.

"Frosty"...sorry, that dictionary must be a misprint...mine has not only the definition of "snarky" but an 8x10 "glossy" of Natalie right beside the definition! :) I'll see about getting you a new one! You are right...what an accurate description! Loved it!

Today...I read all of your comments first, before writing (which violates my Snarky-Belle code). Mainly b/c Snarky B. called me (damage control)to warn and assure me that "nothing particular had happened"...oh whatever, that's right, Snarky, protect the old lady..:)

ANYWAY...every one of your comments touched my heart. I have so many thoughts, but none that are any more eloquent that what you all have expressed.

Snarky Belle, you know how much this blog means to me...certainly a conversation you and I have had in one form or another on many occasions. Yet, once again, your eloquent expression of the same is no less than prize winning. I think we shall dub you the "Blue Ribbon Snarky Belle!"

This post, for me, will be my "Steel Magnolias" and "Weather Channel" post! (Snarky can expound when she so chooses).

Suffice it to say, if you have ever seen "Steel Magnolias" ...chances are you already get it! If you haven't seen will.
And quite frankly, if you have seen or do see it and DON'T get it...then I was simply can't hang with the Belle...

"Steel Magnolias"....mixed with the Weather Channel....that's how we roll! (stay tuned...Snarky's post scripts to this blog will be fascinating, once more!).

Love you all...seriously....just ask Snarky B.!

Natalie...your phone call..right on "target!" LOVE YOU....

I am...Snarky Mama!!!

Mommy (You can call me OM) said...

I am at a loss for words. Know that I love you and hope for peace for you.

Fiauna said...

I actually had a friend say that I shouldn't feel sad because my daughter isn't *as* disabled as someone else's.

There's no prize for suffering. We should all support each other.

karen said...

Well I think you're awesome. You're not so much angry, as you are passionate - and to me, passion is anger taken in a positive direction. I won't pretend to completely understand all you've gone through. My life's challenges have been different. But a couple of people here were right on: we're all in this together. We're all here to help each other along the way. You seem very kind and caring towards others, and I like that. You've shown me an example of something to strive for. You are just fine in my book.

K2cole said...

I echo Jen and Sue - I love your posts. To me they are insightful and right on the money (and well written).

As to the grief and suffering --
How can we even begin to understand the suffering of others? Only one person ever experienced it all and He would be the first to tell you He Loves you and wants only the best for you, for all of us! I too am grateful for a blog and the blogs of others - it helps to know others stuggle but choose to move on or at least try to see the good thru the horrible.

My sweet daughter had Cancer at 9 months and she was never eligible to go to the cancer camps because by the time she was old enough to go she was no longer considered "sick" enough - how that broke my heart - I thought she needed to be around other kids who were dealing with the effects and the prospects of more cancer.

I love your snarkyness, so keep it up!

Love ya,

Carly said...

As usual, I love your post, and am grateful for the voice you have given those of us that feel "misery loves supremacy" is a completely insane notion. It's something I've been thinking about a lot lately myself. I lost my father-in-law and grandfather unexpectedly six months apart from each other four years ago. Since that time, I have observed the very different ways my mother-in-law and grandmother choose to handle their grief. My grandmother loves to tell people that "life never gets any better, only worse" and then talk about how miserable she is without my grandfather. She even felt the need to share that lovely comment with my friend, widowed with 6 young children, at her husband's funeral. I was heartbroken and embarrassed, but my mother-in-law overheard my grandmother ripping my friend's heart out, came up right afterwards, hugged my friend and whispered "It does get better. You'll never forget, but someday it won't be so tender, and you'll have happy moments again, it just takes time, prayer and faith. I'm here if you need to talk." I've never been so grateful for my mother-in-law, who isn't generally cuddly. When my grandmother asks how my mother-in-law is doing and I report that she is doing well (which she is!), she always sighs and says "of course it's easier for her than me--since she has kids at home to make it better, and I'm all alone." Now, the flip side to that is that it can't be easy for my mother-in-law to try to raise 3 teenage sons and 1 teenage daughter through their formative years without a father, which I can't even imagine having to do. After years of observing this dynamic, I've come to realize that it is indeed true that everyone in the world has a reason to claim total misery as their personal specialty. Those that choose to diminish the grief of others are still so trapped in their own that they feel the need to bring others down too. We all just need to realize that everyone has a reason to be sad, and then, just maybe, we can listen and help others without feeling the need to "rank" them, internally or verbally.

Jill said...

I think about mothers like you when I deliver my babies. I always wonder what it's like to be in the postpardum wing with no screaming baby next to you and how you can hear other's babies. I hope they move them to a different part of the hospital. I'm a worrier by nature (I found out it's genetic--for real) and I think of that as soon as I get pregnant. So, I guess, I feel for you. You can be sad and upset about it forever . . . who wouldn't?

And I love this quote:

Edmund Burke said, 'The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.'

I'm usually the do nothing, I think a lot of us are, but not anymore.

Keep on keepin' on!

caitsmom said...

Sending lots of hugs and love. The grief olympics as many call it, has from the beginning stunned me. How can another's pain, presumably worse than mine make me feel better? How can another's pain, presumably less than mine make me feel better? The answer is "it doesn't" to both. We all suffer our pains in our time and in our way. Because you are snarky, I'll share that sometimes when people begin a sentence with "Well, you think that's bad . . " and continue with a story. I want to answer, "Yes, I'm glad your life sucks more than mine." But, I don't, instead I post it here, 'cause I think you'll get that it's a poor mean joke. And, well it's not true, my life is tough, painful, AND beautiful. I had a baby, a beautiful daughter, and I miss her. And I have some small inkling of the pain and joy you feel when you MISS your precious daughter too. Peace.

caitsmom said...

"that makes me laugh" I meant to add that to my comment about the "poor mean joke," 'cause sometimes those kinds of things make me laugh.

Angie said...

I can't imagine thinking of you as anything other than articulate, kind, sensitive, and wise. I hope you see yourself that way.

Laretha said...

As always Natalie your words are amazing.

A reader recently left a message on my post that read "God never waste hurt" - that is what He is doing thru your hurt - not wasting it but using it to help others.

Love you girl!

Valsy said...

Do I need to kick some ass? I've got skills.

Sarah said...

I am not good at leaving comments, but just wanted to let you know that you are an inspiration to me. No one should ever make you feel that since you lost your little angel Victoria, no matter how many years ago, that it is not the same as a recent loss. (We lost our first one 13 years ago, and it still hurts.) You are wonderfull in what you do(blogging). I look at you and what you have been through and how far you have came, and relize that yes, it hurts now, and will always hurt, but life does get easier, and someday, we can find some joy in our life. YOU are living proof of that!

em said...

you are quite enjoyable to be around! although we've never "been around" each other in real life i feel like we talk several times a week;-) love your writing. love your stinkin face!!! love your courage to write in spite of what others may say. i've been on vacation for a week and am finally back to catch up on all of your posts!

Michelle said...

Why is it that others sometimes feel that their pain precludes them from understanding ours? Those who love realize that pain is pain. To see someone hurting is to wish to comfort.
I have thought about writing a post on what to say and what not to say to a bereaved mother. I'm not sure if I ever will. If you really love someone and they know you love them, you can say the wrong thing and it doesn't matter. But if that person has no conviction of your love and you say the wrong thing, it brings an ocean of pain.
I was turned away from a grieving parents' online group (and this was hosted by a member of the Church), because she was not included women who had experienced miscarriage or stillbirth. I can't tell you how much this hurt, but I'm sure you can imagine.
I guess that we just need to love unconditionally, like the Savior has taught. Even if someone is suffering from a trial that you found not as hard, you never know what is actually in that person's heart. DON'T JUDGE. Elder Maxwell said: "Only the Lord can compare crosses."
Bravo for telling your story and making yourself vulnerable to those who love and those who can't seem to see past their own pain.
Maybe someday I'll be brave like you. . . . I'm with Emily--it comforts me to know that I will still miss Benjamin after 12 years have gone by. Keep on writing!

MammaWarrior said...

you are so priceless!! I love you too!!!!!!!!

Carly Marie said...

I have written babies names that died 30 years before I was born. Once you are welcomed into this club you are there forever. Anyone who says otherwise is in a really bad place themselves. x

I love you Natalie.

Allie said...

There are times I read what you write and I agree whole-heartedly. Other times, I couldn't agree less. But I continue to read because I enjoy your writing. :) Plus, if you agree with everyone all the time, how boring would that be? I think that regardless of the time of your child's death, be it 6 weeks, 6 years or 60 years, they are always with you. It's just that as time goes, you smile more than you cry. While I am not nearly as far into this journey as you, my laughter flows much more than my tears now. Reading and hearing from others who have been in the pit and are now, for the most part, out of it are inspiring to me. The pit is a horrible place to be and it means so much to me that I can see others who have been there, who have pulled themselves up and out of it and can continue living their lives and praising God. And having things in their life other than the death of their child. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of Ethan several times during the day, missing him with all my heart. But I cannot imagine being back as I was in the beginning, where missing him and wanting him were all that I did.

Gretchen said...

Natalie -- I'm sorry that there are people out there (people like us, in fact, who have lost a child(ren)) who have deemed their grief more acceptable than your own. I am so proud of the grieving and healing you have done - and the honesty and transparency with which you've done it. Victoria is certainly proud of her mother, just as your living children are.

How fortunate are we all that we get to see more than your grief on a regular basis. Some people have no idea how treacherous a path it is to get to the place you are. And of course, everything you do is through the lens of having your lost your precious daughter... that's just the way it works when you've lost someone so precious.

I continue to read and support because you are uniquely you.