Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Rose For Meredith

Isn't this the prettiest rose? Lisa, Jasper's Mommy, sent this to me yesterday. Lisa, I can't thank you enough for this beautiful picture and your support. This touched my heart deeply and I so appreciate your kindness and I do thank you for reading Meredith's story.
Lisa maintains Waterfall Angels where she and her husband take photos of angel babies' names on stones surrounded by soothing waterfalls. Meredith's Waterfall Angel photos are posted in her Gallery. Lisa also has a blog for her baby boy - Jasper, Forever Our Firstborn.
Lisa, thank you again. After so many years, Meredith's being honored by others is a precious gift. Some of Meredith's other gifts are posted in her Gallery. I haven't finished putting everything there yet.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Depression, I Know Thee Well - Part 2

In my previous post, I failed to mention the counselor I went to before Adam was born. After we moved to DFW my husband and I met a man who ran a Christian counseling center. He immediately recognized that I was not happy and asked a few leading questions that lead to us telling about our loss. The man said he would like me to see one of his counselors and it would be free of charge as the church he went to had given him funds to use for this purpose. Not having insurance to pay for such, I accepted the offer. Being Christians ourselves, I felt good about this decision. I began seeing J once a week. I felt he was helping somewhat, until about six months later. I had told J that I had pictures of Meredith's funeral and a baby book I had made for her. He asked to see these items, so I brought them in. He asked to keep the book for a week so he could look at it. I didn't want to let it go but I finally agreed. J had it with him the next week when I went in but he tried to talk me into letting him keep it, saying that having the book kept my grief fresh - that I needed to get rid of what visible memories I had of her. At one point I thought he wasn't going to let me have it back, but in the end he did. Then he started to ask me about doing an exercise where we would burn her pictures and in theory "burn" up the bad memories. I finally agreed to this, had copies made of her photos, and took them with me for the next visit. We did the exercise and he asked me how I felt. I told him I was saddened, but I had other copies of her pictures, so I would be okay. J became very angry with me and said I had cheated on the exercise - he meant for me to burn ALL of her pictures! I told him that would NEVER happen. When I left that day, he was very angry. J was very cool toward me for the next few sessions. When I found out I was pregnant with Adam a short time later, J pronounced me "cured" and I quit seeing him. He was a very well educated man but he was stupid enough to believe a new baby would totally cure my grief. I didn't trust counselors after that and didn't seek out another for nearly 19 years, even though my depression never really lifted. My life was manageable, so I struggled on. The births of our children did help me tremendously.
Over the next few years, my family doctor would prescribe antidepressants and I would take them temporarily, but then I would quit. Raising three children and working kept hubby and me busy. Often I didn't have much "me" time. As the children got older, the old sadness returned and stayed. Adam graduated from high school in 1996. I cried during the entire baccalaureate service and most of graduation. I became so depressed that I lived for the weekends, when I could come home and stay in bed all weekend. Hubby and the kids did all the chores and cooking on the weekend. In fact, they were doing most of it during the week as well. I struggled off to work on Monday, nearly too tired to put one foot in front of the other. The tissue box was my constant companion at home and in the car, I cried so much. I began to be plagued with physical ailments - pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, and an inexplicable loss of 30% of my kidney function. When I was ill, I really didn't care if I lived or died.
I decided to try a counselor and medication again. Our regular doctor prescribed an antidepressant and I was allergic to it, as well as the second one I tried. The third one worked and I began to feel much better. I saw four different therapists and none of them was a good fit for me. Let's just say they all reminded me of J in some ways although not nearly as bad as he.
The next counselor was G and she was a jewel. Also a Christian, G was the first counselor who validated that Meredith was worthy of my grief. She helped me to walk through all I had been through with our baby and relieve myself of lots of the sadness that had weighed me down for so many years. G also saw my husband and me together and he began to understand the magnitude of my depression. She helped me to realize that the extreme sadness I felt after Adam graduated was the "empty nest syndrome" - even though he still lived at home, he was going to college and preparing to leave home in a few years. He was the baby who had brightened our lives tremendously after Meredith's death and I was already "mourning" his exit from our home. I believe firmly that God lead me to G. I believe she saved my life and I owe her a debt of gratitude for the five years she nurtured me. Dr. D was a Godsend as well, working with me to find medications that were right for me and recommending G to me.
About the same time I started to see G, Dr. D wanted me to see a psychiatrist. All those years I had feared psychiatrists because of their stigma, but since I trusted him, I did what he asked. Dr. F was a Christian man and I saw him for 11 years before he retired. His main role was to regulate my medications. I felt blessed to have these caring Christian professionals in my life. My depression improved greatly. There was a purpose in life again.
I should have predicted it, but I didn't. In 1998, the twins were preparing to graduate from high school. That spring, the old sadness started to return, even with counseling and medication. I even briefly contemplated taking my life so Dr. F suggested a wonderful day program for depressed individuals at a hospital a mile from our home. In May of that year, I took off the rest of the school year and started the program. Our girls had "senioritis" very badly, so I would drop them off at the very door each needed to enter school in the morning and go on to my program. I went for three weeks and felt a huge return of energy and purpose.
Again, I should have seen it coming. In 2001, Adam was married and left home for good, he and his wife lost their first apartment to fire, my cousin's baby boy died tragically at six weeks of age, my health deteriorated further, and 9/11 devastated our nation. I was distraught once more. Dr. F told me about another program, as the hospital close to us had closed. Hubby took me there and picked me up every day for two weeks in November of that year. Since then I have been doing fairly well, thank the Lord. I do believe God uses caring professionals to do some of His work. I see my doctors regularly. My counselor now, R, is a wonderful caring Believer. Many, many people have prayed for my healing. God saved the best for last, as in early 2009 I found the blog Caring For Carleigh and was introduced to Holly and a whole world of women who had suffered child loss. I found I was not alone. How I wish that there were no need for Carleigh's blog, that babies were all born healthy, and no one ever had to tell a baby goodbye. Sadly, that is not reality. I just cannot thank you enough, you loving women who have shared with me and helped my healing tremendously.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Depression, I Know Thee Well - Part 1

Imagine you are expecting a much loved, much wanted baby. Imagine the baby is born early, and she is the little girl you were wishing for. Then imagine she dies, and you never get to hold her, be in the nursery with her, or comfort her as she passes away to Heaven. Your view of her was always through a nursery window. You are sent home from the hospital with nothing of hers, not even the little numbered hospital bracelet that matches yours. No lock of hair, no crib card, no footprints. She is buried and the only touch she has ever had of yours is the brief kiss you gave her at her funeral.
That is what happened to me. I am unable to write this without crying even though this happened nearly 36 years ago. What I am going to share with you is very personal. However, it is a story I want to share - I feel a longing to share to let people who have suffered depression know they are not alone.
After Meredith was buried, the rest of the world went back to regular routines. The cards stopped coming, the food deliveries stopped arriving, no more flowers arrived. (Let me say here that we were very thankful for all the kindnesses shown us. No gift, however small, went unnoticed.) No one in the family wanted to hear me cry or talk about her outside of my husband. Even my mother, who had a stillborn daughter herself, didn't want to see me upset and often shushed me if I started to cry about my baby. In later years, Mother changed her tune and grieved with me. Maybe at the time it brought up sad feelings for her - I will never know. My mother in law refused to look at the photos of Meredith that my father in law took at the funeral ( the only photos we have of her). I made an appointment with the pediatrician to go over the autopsy report and needed a ride to the office. MIL refused to take me and my husband couldn't take off work to go as he had already missed so much when the baby died. A church friend was going to take me, but she became ill with her pregnancy and had to keep canceling. So many people we knew worked during the day, so I just finally gave up. I gave up much too easily in those days. One day about two weeks after the birth and death of our baby I was very upset and crying so MIL arranged for me to go and visit my parents, as she said this had gone on for too long, and I should be getting better. She said I needed to be with my parents. Like a good son, my husband took me to my parents for a week, without him, but I really didn't want to be away from him. He was grieving, too, but we did as we were told.
Hubby's grandmother wanted me to take a job less than six weeks postpartum. The "helpful" minister at our church had found it for me. I didn't feel like working, physically or emotionally, but GM became angry with me and said I needed to help out now that I wasn't pregnant. She said I would get pregnant again and she couldn't help me out anymore. I was shocked - she had always been so nice to me. She was my husband's beloved grandmother. We lived with her, so hubby and I felt like we didn't have a choice but for me to take the job. We moved out as soon as we could.
My job turned out to be just a Christmas job and it was the first job I ever had in my life. I tried hard but many days I cried as I worked, trying to hide it from customers. I felt bad physically as I went to work less than five weeks after the birth. The blood loss I had after birth pulled my health down greatly. I did not have any closure over Meredith's death. There was just not much support for me. No one wanted to help me grieve.
I started to sink into a deep depression. When my job ended, I started sleeping a lot. Hubby would go to work in the morning leaving me in bed. Somedays I would wake up at 4:oo or later and realize I just had enough time to shower, dress and straighten up the apartment before he came home. I didn't want him to know of my fatigue. I got several more temporary jobs so I could pay off our hospital bills (we didn't have any health insurance) and save for Meredith's tombstone. When these jobs ended, I would start sleeping all day again. No matter how late I slept, I was always tired when our regular bedtime came. I also started gaining weight. I was slender when we married and wore junior petite sizes, but that began to change. The doctor had given me birth control pills when I went for my postpartum visit and had warned me against getting pregnant for at least six months, preferably a year. So I mourned our loss, but also the fact that it would be a while before I could try again.
Nothing seemed to give me pleasure except shopping for flowers for Meredith's grave. Every store in Texarkana that sold artificial flowers saw me as a customer very often. Hubby was beside himself with the changes in me. He didn't know how to help, even though he was a counselor himself - he mostly worked with substance abusers.
Gas was fairly inexpensive then, so we visited my parents nearly every weekend so we could also visit the cemetery. I sometimes had irrational thoughts, such as when we still lived with his grandmother, I wanted desperately to have Meredith exhumed and buried in GM's yard so I could look out the window and see her grave whenever I wanted to do so. I didn't mention this to my doctor, as I felt I was alone in this journey. I felt he had not given me adequate physical or emotional care when I was in the hospital, so why should I seek further help from him?
The first counselor I ever saw, at my husband's urgings, was the director of the place where he worked. This man was a minister, and I soon found out all he wanted to hear from me was about our sexual life. I felt victimized by him, so I only went a couple of times, not even telling hubby how bad it was. I don't even know if I really understood what I had as depression, but I did know in the 1970's one didn't really talk freely about emotional issues.
One bright spot in all of this was the purchase of Meredith's tombstone. I worked as a summer temp for the Texas Employment Commission (as it was called then) and made enough money to pay for the hospital bill and her tombstone. We chose a lovely pink granite stone with a white vase from Ken Stewart Memorials, who still has a business in Texarkana. Mr. Stewart treated us superbly and we will never forget his kindness and understanding. We took the tombstone with us and Daddy set it for us on the weekend before her first birthday.
I struggled with extreme fatigue and depression for two years and we moved to the DFW Metroplex in 1976. I started feeling a bit better, and a much wanted rainbow came into our world in June of 1978, fullterm after an eventful pregnancy. There are no words to describe the feeling when he was born, our red-haired Adam. I wanted a girl so badly, but it only took me a few seconds to get over the fact that he was a boy. We were afraid to buy much when I was pregnant, but MIL and GM bought the crib and bedding after he was born, and church friends gave us a shower, plus we got lots of gifts from family, friends, and neighbors. The church in Texarkana even sent us a huge shower in a box! We were so grateful for all the help. MIL said something at the time that was prophetic, and it rang in my head for years afterwards. She mentioned that she was buying things for us because we lived a few hours away, and she wouldn't get to be in his life much. The truth of the matter is that we visited them very much over the years and she never paid much attention to our children. She paid for a crib and served her time, I suppose. Even though she acted this way toward us, I still loved her very much. That is why I was so hurt that she treated our children that way.
The depression seemed to leave after Adam was born. He made us so happy and I had a purpose in life again. The Lord had blessed us and taken away lots of the pain, but Meredith was still gone, she was still missed and loved. Two years, two weeks, and three days after Adam came our twin girls were born! Amanda and Angelique were preemies and I started having those old dark feelings again. I was afraid they would die. I made sure we had pictures, footprints, and other memories of them. When Amanda lost down to 3lbs, 15ozs, I was devastated. I knew she was dying. But she didn't. They came home after two weeks in the hospital. We were in a mad rush to keep everyone fed, clean, happy, and rested. Every 2.5 hours around the clock, we fed babies, even after school started and I returned to work. After about three or so months of that, one night I enlarged two nipples and added cereal to their formula. They were so surprised at the taste and we got the first full night's rest we'd had in months!
But I was suffering from what I now know as postpartum depression. I was anxious all the time, afraid someone I loved was going to die. I called my family all the time to see if they were okay. I was told I had a perpetually worried look on my face. Hubby had bought a microwave for us to warm bottles in. I had a deep-seated fear that I would accidentally put one of the babies in there instead of a bottle. Even now, this memory is nearly too horrible to write. Added to this was the loss of my fertility. My doctor had strongly suggested that I not have any more pregnancies, so I had a tubal ligation six weeks after the twins were born. It was a medically sound decision, but it broke my heart. At the surgery check-up, I did tell my doctor about my anxious feelings. he gave me a prescription and said if it didn't help, I would have to talk to "someone else" and I knew that someone must be a psychiatrist. I DID NOT want to see a psychiatrist, so I stuffed it all in and kept on going the only way I knew how. The Lord was there, even though I didn't ask Him to heal me. I was used to praying for the needs of other people, and I hated to ask for something for myself. He had sent us three exceptionally loving children, and I thought I should be happy. He was there, and would be there through a very long journey.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Baby's Christmas Tree

I have been inspired by others who have made Christmas trees for their babies, and I want to try to make one for Meredith this year. She has never had one before. I would like to have a pink and blue theme since I love those colors together, but the tree itself MUST be pink! My dear friends Twyla and her daughter Lindsey have a blog called Two Crazy Crafters. They aren't crazy, but they are exceptionally talented. Lindsey does a lot of papercrafts and does designs for scrapbook companies. She also works at a scrapbooking store. Twyla is a whiz with crocheting. These are some beautiful baby blankets that Twyla has made, and I ordered the pink and blue one from her. I originally wanted it for a baby gift, but then I got to thinking about how pretty it would be on the table under the pink and blue Christmas tree. So, I'm keeping it myself! I have ordered things from Twyla and Lindsey, and they always include more than I order. They are just dear sweet women. Their shop of handmade things on Etsy is called Fancy That Shoppe. Their blog if filled with photos of lovely antique cards and things from yesteryear, along with their crafts and tutorials for lots of the crafts.

I ordered these beautiful Keepsake Booties from my friend Lynn in Georgia. She has a wonderful Etsy shop of handmade things, Lynn's Lovelies. These booties are made for ornamental purposes only and they are absolutely beautiful. They will go on the Christmas tree. Lynn is a romantic and her orders always include dried rose petals from her own garden. Thank you Lynn for making these sweet booties for my baby. And thank you for the cute flower girl picture that you know I would love.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baby Angel

This picture by Joyce Birkenstock has always reminded me of my baby Meredith. There is something about the look on her face, the wonderment in her eyes, that makes me think there are beautiful places in Heaven just like this and my baby is seeing them. How beautiful Heaven must be! We can only imagine right now, but my faith in God lets me know I will one day see for myself, and get to hold the darling girl who never felt my arms around her, in life or in death.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 19 - Day of Hope

I have been feeling badly for several weeks and I didn't feel like getting out in this heat to shop for things for a memory box for August 19. So, in honor of our babes gone too soon, I wanted to donate to someone who has lifted my spirits. There are so many of you who have given to me in honor of Meredith and I eventually want to do something for these organizations who have shared with me. This time I decided to donate to Triplet Butterfly Wings. Rachel has raised and released many butterflies for bereaved parents in memory of her Jaxon, Colin, and Courtney. There are costs involved with raising the butterflies and she needs a new camera to take photos of the releases. I hope my little donation helps to soothe someone else's heart.

Visiting the Cemetery

Meredith is buried two hours away from our home. The small well-kept cemetery is in the town where I grew up. When she died, the only constant standing out in my mind was home, and home represented the cemetery where my grandparents were buried and where we will be buried one day. I asked for her to be placed next to my grandmother, and she was. In the coming years, two other babies from our family were to be buried in that cemetery - Joshua, my premature great-nephew, who lies right next to Meredith, and my cousin's baby boy, Cason, who passed away when he was six weeks old.
Even though I am only 57, my health has deteriorated in the last several years, and I don't get to visit the cemetery very often any more. I know that Meredith's spirit is not there, but her tiny earthly remains are, so the cemetery has always been a place of peace for me to visit and be near her little spot of earth. I was introduced to death at a young age and I'm not afraid of death. In fact, two years ago, I was in intensive care and stared death right in the face. I wasn't afraid to die, but I am thankful to the Lord that He allowed me to come home to my family.
When Meredith first died, we went to my home town frequently to visit her grave and leave artificial flowers. I shopped around at all the stores that carried flowers, carefully choosing which ones I would take for her the next time we went. We saved our money and were thrilled to be able to buy a pink granite tombstone for her first birthday. It had a small white vase on it so it was easier for me to leave flowers for her. Strange that we were excited about a tombstone, but that was one of the few things we could do in her remembrance.
This past Saturday my brother and his wife had a family gathering at "home." He now lives in Mother & Daddy's home, the home where we were raised. It was built in the 1930's and has been remodeled several times. We had a wonderful time of food, family, fireworks, and fellowship. Our daughter first took us by the cemetery, where in 102 degree sunshine we replaced the flowers on Meredith's grave, on Joshua's, and on several others I'm responsible for. It felt good to see her name engraved in granite, to put pretty pink flowers out for her, to be at the place where her little body rests. I don't know how to describe it other than to say I felt like I was home with my darling first baby, home near her earthly remains. Over the past year, I have sometimes struggled with the idea of having her exhumed and cremated so I can have her at our real home. I finally decided that she will remain undisturbed until the dead in Christ arise. Rest in peace, sweet Meredith Helen - I love you and miss you so very much.