Monday, October 26, 2015

Obie Blankets, Because All Babies Deserve Blankets

In the early weeks and months after Obie passed away, it was hard to do things beyond the bare minimum.  We watched a lot of TV.  Slept.  Hoped time would go by more quickly.

One thing Elizabeth started doing a lot was knitting and crocheting.  Indiscriminate projects, just something to do to pass the time.  Mostly while watching TV.  It kept her mind occupied so she had at least a little escape here and there.

She made things for a hopeful eventual living baby.  Ours, maybe, or someone else's.  She made things that just looked kind of cool.  She made gifts for nieces and nephews.  She finished a project she had haphazardly started years ago and never finished.  She made a yellow blanket because she had yellow yarn from an old project.
Some projects Elizabeth made earlier in 2015.

Somewhere along the line, she decided she wanted to make a special blanket for Obie.  She had made a few blankets when she was pregnant, but they were general.  She wanted to make one that had Obie's bees on it, and obviously was yellow.

The Obie Blanket.

We've mentioned before that personalized gifts we received in honor of Obie meant a lot to us.  Especially in the beginning when we were looking for anything to hold onto.  Elizabeth had been talking a lot with a couple women who lost their babies around the same time we lost Obie, and she decided she wanted to make them blankets too.

That's how Obie Blankets started, and now she's made more than she ever expected.  It's therapeutic to make these blankets for other loss moms.  She gets to think of both Obie and the baby the blanket is for.  She gets to talk to the loss mom about her baby and things that make her think of her child.  And Obie's Bees get to fly all around.

Obie's Bees on Obie Blankets.

Obie Blankets always have a bee applique on the bottom right, and an applique that has a special meaning for the baby the blanket is for on the top left.  You can see pictures of all the blankets Elizabeth has made so far on the Obie Blankets page.

For Ellie, Emily, Edward, Meredith, Luna, Phoebe, Esther, Shaul, Annalise, and all the babies gone too soon.

If you want to make an Obie blanket, you can download the pattern here.  Please keep in mind that Obie Blankets are only meant for loss children.  Living babies can have all kinds of beautiful blankets (and so much else), but Obie Blankets are special to us.  They are very special blankets for very special babies.  Because all babies deserve blankets.  All babies deserve something special.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Awareness Month

We wanted to write a post to update everyone on how things are progressing with lil' beastie.  Like so much in our life right now, we can't really talk about the positives with his growth without also talking about more tough stuff.

We knew life without Obie would always be a balance between the life we had imagined for ourselves and the life we have.  We'd never be purely happy again, because there is an Oberon-shaped hole that can never be filled.  We may laugh and smile and feel joy, but there will always be tears in the corner of our eyes or a twinge of pain in the back of our minds.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  Web sites we follow and communities we are in are extra active right now.  Elizabeth's parents went to the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Remembrance Walk in Littleton, CO, Elizabeth and her mom have been participating in the online sharing event Capture Your Grief, and lots of people lit candles for Obie on October 15 as part of the wave of light on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  This extra attention and awareness is good, but it is also emotionally draining.

Obie's Grandpa & Grandma at the NILMDTS Remembrance Walk

 Candles for Obie as part of the October 15 wave of light

Some of Elizabeth's Capture Your Grief posts.  You can follow her on Instagram @il0veanne

We also got the horrible news that friends and a fellow loss family lost their baby in the second trimester.  We are so sad and have cried many tears for them, but we know too well that our emotions don't even begin to reach the depth of pain this family is going through right now.  One loss is more than any family should have to deal with, and subsequent losses are a different level of cruel.

Yes, it's awareness month, but right now we feel like there might be such a thing as too aware.  We are too aware of pregnancy and infant loss.  It can be too much.  It would be so easy to disengage and just focus on our family, blocking out other tragedies, but that's not good.  Insulating ourselves from hearing about other losses doesn't make this pregnancy more safe, and it doesn't help grieving families.  We know better than most that support can be difficult to find, and we can't stop offering it when the people in our lives are hurting.

We warned you.  Tough stuff.

Lil' beastie continues to have lots of appointments.  He's getting bigger now, and Elizabeth can feel him moving around every day.  Chris feels him from the outside a lot too.  He seems to like being active after meals, at bedtime, and in the middle of the night.  This has been very reassuring for us as we are reminded he's in there, he's real.

We're trying to be good about reading or singing to him every night before bed, and we are getting more consistent.  We still miss a night here and there due to exhaustion (emotional or physical), but we'll keep trying to get better.

Elizabeth still gets weekly progesterone shots, weekly calls with the high-risk for preterm delivery nurse, regular OBGYN visits once every four weeks, and perinatalogist visits also every four weeks.  At the perinatalogist appointments we get an ultrasound and a short meeting with our doctor.  They check lil' beastie's growth and his organs.  So far, everything looks as expected.  At our last check a couple weeks ago, lil' beastie was in the 57% percentile for growth.

October 16, 2015

Physically, this has not been an eventful pregnancy (which we are thankful for).  There have been a couple days where Elizabeth doesn't feel lil' beastie move as much, but we've gone to the hospital to get checked out twice now and everything still looks good.  The most recent trip was in mid-October, where we were reassured that lil' beastie's heart is beating, he's wiggling around in there, and Elizabeth isn't leaking any fluid.

We both got our flu vaccines, and Elizabeth is scheduled to have Tdap a little later, to make sure lil' beastie is as protected as possible.

Because of the risk of preterm delivery, we've had to cut back our activity level substantially.  Elizabeth isn't supposed to be on her feet or active for more than ~30-45 minutes at a time, so no more big hikes.  She's also not supposed to wander too far from the hospital.  We're not going to be flying anymore this year, and if we go anywhere in the next couple months it will be within a reasonable drive of a hospital with a good NICU.

Hiking in Big Sur in September, no more of this for a while!

Even though things are going well with the pregnancy from a medical perspective, we are still dealing with a lot of emotional stuff.  We are starting to try to do the things we should to be ready for a newborn, but it is very hard.  We need to start visiting day care providers, thinking up names, and revisiting things we may need to purchase.  It is not exciting like it was with Oberon, instead it's more scary.  It feels wrong to be thinking about this stuff again.  It brings up a lot of emotions of missing Oberon, guilt about focusing on the lil' beastie, anxiety that we'll prepare and be left with only is hard.

Where do we go from here?  We try to take it one day at a time.  On days when we feel up to it, we try to plan or take care of the things we should.  On days we don't feel up to it, we just snuggle, or cry, or watch mindless TV to distract ourselves.  We don't have our Type A personalities every day anymore, and for now that's OK.  Maybe forever.  And if it is forever, that's OK too.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Separation of Church and Grief

If you know us, you probably know we're both atheist.  We were both raised in pretty typical North American Christian belief systems (Catholic for Chris and Methodist for Elizabeth), but in adulthood we both stopped believing.  It wasn't because anything traumatic happened to make us "lose our faith," it just happened as a result of questioning the world around us and applying critical thinking to all our beliefs (religious, moral, etc. - no sacred cows).

Being an open atheist in the United States is not nearly as scary as in many other places in the world, but it's also not commonly accepted.  People assume something happened to make us "turn away" or they think we'll "come back" someday.  We didn't and we won't.  We're not mad at the Christian god (or any other gods).  We just don't think they're real.  It's more than a bit patronizing when people refuse to accept this about us.

The impact organized religion has on the world is far-reaching and complex, and this post isn't really meant to get into any of that.  For now, we just want to talk about how atheism impacts our grieving process.

We wouldn't say being atheist makes grieving more or less difficult, but it certainly makes it different.  We'd never judge what bereaved parents (or others) go through with regards to religious beliefs, but these sorts of differences can make connecting hard.  It's so ingrained in our culture to offer prayers and talk of heaven when loved ones pass away.  This brings comfort to many, but not to us.  If anything, it makes us shut down emotionally and we can't connect.

Most of the time, offers of prayers come from a place of love.  But to a person who doesn't believe in a god or gods, it can be perceived quite differently.  Some people go so far as to say they pray we'll find god.  That comes across as aggressive and completely unsupportive.  It's better to just say you're thinking of us or of Obie.  People who remember this (especially religious people) truly make us feel loved and supported, because they are taking time to offer us the support we need rather than the support they habitually give.

Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory
We almost titled this section just "Heaven," but to us they are inextricably linked as concepts.  In some ways, I think we have an easier time with grieving because we aren't worried about where Obie's "soul" resides.  No part of us believes he's in purgatory with other unbaptized babies.  Just like no part of us believes any of our departed loved ones are burning in eternal hellfire.  Oberon is simply gone.  At rest.  Neither his soul nor his body exist anymore, similar to before he existed.  The one difference is his impact on our lives continues.  We loved him intensely for his whole life, and we will try to honor his memory for the rest of ours.

On the other hand, religious people can fall back on the idea of reuniting with loved ones when they themselves die.  This is a nice thought, and it's one we don't get to have.  When people talk about imagining their loved ones (and sometimes even Obie) running around playing in heaven, we withdraw.  It's similar to fantasizing about Obie having a life totally out of step with the one he had.  It may be nice to think about, but it isn't real and ultimately doesn't bring us true comfort.

It's Just Us
A lot of grief affirmations have to do with leaning on god or trusting god's plan.  We don't believe there is a plan, other than the one we make.  We didn't do anything to deserve Obie's medical problems, and we weren't meant to learn some cosmic lesson.  We can only move forward from here, knowing what we know and accepting what we don't.  By the same token, we don't have a supernatural being to rely on to make things OK.  We have to make things OK.  By telling our loved ones what we need, by supporting each other, by taking the steps we're ready to take, and by accepting it when we're not ready.  No one is going to save us, and there's no guarantee that what we want to happen will happen in the future.  We have to decide whether to move forward in spite of that.  It's scary, not knowing what will happen, but ultimately we think it's better.  We know there's only so much we can control, but we should do the best we can with what we have.  We won't wait around and hope things will work out, because there's no universal power taking care of us.  It's on us.

More Thoughts On A Grand Plan
With this subsequent pregnancy, things are going well and we are hopeful.  But we don't believe that we "deserve" this baby or that now it's the "right time."  It was the right time for us when Oberon came into our lives.  We didn't lose Obie for a reason, we didn't get pregnant again because it was the "right time", and no matter what happens with this pregnancy - it isn't a "grand plan."  It is what it is, and we'll have to do our best whatever happens.  Families who go through multiple losses do not have bad timing.  Families who go through no losses are not more deserving or more ready.  Sometimes, bad things happen.  Sometimes it's a direct result of action taken or the environment, and sometimes it's random and out of anyone's control.

Since so much of the support for the grieving is tied up with religion, we thought it was important to share a few secular resources we have found.  Online groups are easier to find than real life ones, and that can be both a benefit and a challenge.
  • Compassionate Friends - This group has no official religious affiliation.  Of course, it is a meeting of local bereaved parents and siblings, so there are people from all faiths and no faith.  Each chapter will depend on the people in it.
  • Grief Beyond Belief - This is a specifically faith-free support group.  They have a public facebook page, and also a private group for the grieving to have a safe space.  This is one of the only places we have found where no one offers default prayers or the common religious-inspired tropes discussed above.
  • Baby Loss Support for Agnostic and Atheist Moms - This private facebook group was recommended by members of the Grief Beyond Belief group.  It's definitely got a different tone, as the members often post memes and not everything is grief related.
We hope these resources may help others, like us, who grieve without religion.

McWay Falls in Big Sur, California