Wednesday, October 30, 2013


October 30, 2013                                                                            

To carry a baby for 41 weeks and 3 days inside of you, and then lose her to a tragic event like a ruptured uterus without ever getting to hear her cry, see her open her eyes, or watch her smile, is enough to make a mother crazy. 

The mother’s empty arms literally ache, and her heart stops caring enough to beat. 
I know because my arms have never felt heavier or more empty, and my heart is still shattered into a million tiny pieces.

I know because I lost my daughter, Brynna Elizabeth on November 1st, 2011. 
After a perfectly healthy pregnancy and an otherwise normal labor, things took a sudden and tragic turn, and after 6 days in the NICU, our beautiful baby girl left this earth to be with the angels. 

Prior to all of this I considered myself a very spiritual person, by nature, but surviving the death of our daughter has proven the largest test of faith, and bump in the “spiritual road of life”, that I have ever experienced.  Since she died, I really haven’t spent much time being angry at the universe or at God, I’ve just been of the mindset that no one in particular is looking out for us, and when push comes to shove, shitty things just happen to really good people.  Not because they necessarily did something to deserve it, or because there is a particular lesson to be learned, but because our existence is much more random than people care to admit, and very often, life’s heartbreaks can’t be wrapped up in a bow made of sensibility and explanation.

I don’t care to hear that “God has a plan” or that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle”.  I do not, and will not ever, believe that there is a God that would make it His plan to give a mother a perfectly healthy, full-term pregnancy with a beautiful baby girl, just to rip her away in a brutal and cruel way.  I do not, and will not ever, believe that I was given this reality to “show me the window that was opened when the door on my daughter’s life was closed”.  And for the record, that whole “no more than we can handle thing?”  What’s the alternative?  A mother’s heart breaks and her life seemingly stops, yet her body continues to function on autopilot, and people continue to need her.  Work continues to need her.  Life continues to require her participation.  So as much as she wants so badly to lie down and die, she can’t because life won’t allow her that luxury.  It was not her time to go, and this new life is her cross to bear. And let me tell you, in the trenches of it all, it absolutely is more than she can “handle”.

Hopelessness is a real threat to a parent when their baby dies.  Darkness consumes the mind and heart, and there are days when standing upright proves an insurmountable goal.  Oceans of tears are shed day in and day out, and the heart struggles to understand what the mind knows is true- that the baby is never coming back.  That there will not be any first steps, kindergarten graduations, elementary school art projects, first dances, teenage angst and turmoil, sports games to attend, first loves to witness, or weddings to plan…. There is nothing.

She is gone.

And you are here.
And that’s it.

It’s really quite easy to lose hope in everything.  The natural order of things has been upset in the most excruciating way, and as a result your trust in everything is shot.  You hear things like “time heals” and “it will all work out, you’ll see,” but you know better.  You are acutely aware that A+B does not equal C.  Just because you have suffered, and are suffering, does not exempt you from further heartbreak down the road.  Having lost a baby (A) in a really tragic way (B) does not mean your life will be peaceful and enlightened from here on out (C).  You meet people like you, walking this dark road of grief.  Some having lost one baby, some having lost many, but all have shattered hearts.  And you recognize that suffering is part of the human existence.  This knowledge causes an internal struggle and dialogue… Is it safe to trust that good will happen again?  Is it safe to invest in the belief that not all days will be as debilitating as the one in which you currently stand?  It’s hard to believe in the idea of a balanced universe. It’s hard not to be jaded.

All the while, as I walk my road of sadness, however, I am aware of a glimmer.  Most often it’s translucently subtle and, at times, very hard to focus on.  Almost as if the harder I look directly at it, the more difficult it becomes to see.  There are times I yearn so deeply to reach it, to touch it, but it’s always just beyond the reach of my fingertips. Like a rainbow, it’s always there but always ahead of me, calling me forward, urging me to take another step.  When I give in and just walk, one foot in front of the other, one slow step at a time, I see it clearer.  I see it on the horizon of my future.  That glimmer is Hope.  Hope in the future.  Hope in all the tomorrows I am destined to live through.  Hope that my soul’s broken wings will continue to heal over time, one day being strong enough to fly again.

There have been so many times since Brynna died that I have felt hopeless.  I have been ready to give up and give in to the sadness and despair.  Often, I have been to a point where I recognized that my sorrow was bigger than any counselor, or book, or even family member could help me out of, and it has been in those moments that Hope has spoken to me the most profoundly.  Sometimes sneaking, sometimes thundering in, it comes and shines its light on the darkest corners of my heart, showing me there is more.  More to this life.  More than this life.

Several times, these moments of hope have been what I believe to be messages from Brynn, telling me she is safe and at peace wherever she is.  Red heart shaped balloons floating randomly in the sky, rainbows caught out of the corner of my eye in an otherwise dark and ominous sky, the “perfect” song coming on at just the right time, profound fortunes tucked inside a cookie… the list goes on.

Other times, the moments seem to carry the feeling of a gentle hug that wraps everything broken about me in an embrace so tender it feels supernatural.  Merciful moments, often only lasting as long as it takes to blink away my tears, offering a momentary respite from the heartache.

Growing up, my dad was Catholic and my mom was an atheist.  I often found myself, even into my adulthood, feeling caught between two ideologies, not because of any external expectation or a belief system they pushed on me, but as a result of my own heart being on its own quest to make sense of my existence.

I’ve always had a belief in a greater power, in Love, and in a loving God, and have struggled within my heart to define it comfortably.  I do not believe that a person needs to practice lessons of love and acceptance within the confines of building every Sunday in order to be an enlightened, and God loving person.  As we all know, some of the most conflicted and maladjusted people reside and worship inside those walls, and no true enlightenment happens for them there.

Occurrences happen in life that we as humans spend endless amounts of time trying to explain, justify, and make sense of, when in fact the very nature of each event is very obviously unexplainable.  I am reaching a point in my life where instead of trying to rationalize it all away, I instead take it on faith that these occurrences are messages sent specifically for me, whether from Brynn or from God, to assist me in moving through whichever moment I’m in.

In the last couple of days, I experienced one such moment.  Sitting at my desk at work and wondering what purpose I serve at my job, I was reviewing a student’s file.  I had one earphone in my ear, but no music queued up on my phone, and I remember my mind momentarily drifting to the thought of missing Brynna. 

This week is particularly hard as her birthday was 4 days ago and tomorrow, while everyone else will be laughing and celebrating Halloween, we will be remembering the late night hours of making the decision to discontinue life support, and holding our baby girl while she took her last breaths.

I remember having a thought like, “what do I do now?  I’ve prayed, I’ve cried, I’ve fallen, I’ve stood again, over and over…what do I do now?  Do I just keep crying out for clarity and guidance?  Do I just keep breathing?  Who can help me?  Really…who can help me?”

All of a sudden, without me touching any buttons, a song began playing in my ear.  I froze and looked at my phone sitting on the counter, wondering how this happened, how the music could have been turned on?  I have over 5,000 songs on my phone and this song, one that I don’t really remember hearing any time before, was playing of its own accord.  Had I bumped something?

In an instant I was captivated by the words of the song, believing at first that Brynna was talking to me again through music, but then I experienced a perfect and calm understanding that in that moment, it was my job to just listen.  Not reason.  Not deduce.  Not explain away.  Just listen.

When you try not to look at me, scared that I’ll see you hurting.
You’re not hiding anything, and frankly it’s got me worried.
Nobody knows you better than I do.
I keep my promises. I’m fighting for you.
You’re not alone, I’ll listen ‘til your tears give out,
You’re safe and sound, I swear that I won’t let you down.
What’s hurting you, I feel it too.
I mean it when I say,
When you cry, I cry with you.

I’m not going any place,
I just hate to see you like this.
No, I can’t make it go away,
Oh, but keeping it inside won’t fix it.
I can’t give you every answer that you need,
But I wanna hear everything you wanna tell me.

You’re not alone, I’ll listen ‘til your tears give out,
You’re safe and sound, I swear I won’t let you down.
What’s hurting you, I feel it too.
I mean it when I say,
When you cry, I cry with you, oh
Yeah, I cry with you.

You need love tough enough to count on,
so here I am.

You’re not alone, I’ll listen ‘til your tears give out,
You’re safe and sound, I swear I won’t let you down.
What’s hurting you, I feel it too.
I mean it when I say,
When you cry, I cry with you.

I felt safe.  I felt heard.  I felt wrapped up in an embrace so tender that the faint glimmer of hope always present on my horizon, for a brief moment, became brighter than I’ve seen it in nearly two years.

Tomorrow marks two years since we made the decision to allow Brynn to fly free of the restrictions of her broken body and mind.  Making the choice to hold our baby without encumbering lines and tubes, knowing it would be the first and last time we were given such a blessing, is indescribable.  It is the most profoundly painful experience I have ever known.  Hearing her breathing slow, and watching her skin pale, I felt my heart would most surely stop as hers did.  And yet, here we are… two years later.  Without our sweet girl, but somehow walking, often times limping, forever forward toward the glimmer of hope that at least parts of our life will be kind and fulfilling.

I am not na├»ve enough to believe (nor do I want to really) that from here on, my life will be balanced and “healed”.  I know more certainly than I know anything else, that my heart will be broken and incomplete until the day my arms are no longer void of my daughter.  I know I will continue to walk through this life marked.  A mother without her child, I am to a certain degree, an incomplete soul.  But what I also know is that my broken soul is being tended to by a Love so great, words cannot define it.  I recognize the shelter I am being given which is allowing my grief to manifest in the ways it needs for however long it needs.  In this world where suffering is universal, I am recognizing that Love is as well.  I am recognizing that I am heard and cared for. 

And that is enough for now.

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