Life After Beau

These are just a few things I've written. In this emotionally chaotic time, it helps to organize my thoughts.
Thank you for sharing this life with me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas cards.

I felt I needed to incorporate Beau, somehow, into the traditional sending of the holiday cards this year.  He is, and always will be, a part of our family.  I wanted to have some kind of display for friends and family that maybe haven't heard from us since they sent the sympathy card back in March, that we are still Beau's parents and we are proud of that.  And he is never far from our minds, our hearts, our lives.  We realize he is not here and we ache for him, but he did leave us with beautiful lessons about love and how death cannot stop our love for him.  Also, I wanted people to know that it's okay to bring his name up....as the saying goes in the bereaved community, "My child's name may bring tears to my eyes, but never fails to bring music to my ears."  (Author unknown).

The insert to the card says, "Each life leaves something beautiful behind.  Beau Nicholas Caston March 7, 2010"

Also, I realized I really did want to send holiday wishes to everyone on our Christmas card list. I appreciate getting them in the mail and wanted to keep in touch that way.  Since I un-Facebooked myself and sometimes feel a little anti-social in that regard. 

I hope everyone has a peaceful holiday; one filled with love. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holidays are hard.

I haven't written much lately, but it's not because Beau has not been on my mind.  On the contrary.  He is so much a part of my every day thoughts, my every day existence, that it would be impossible for me NOT to think of him.
The holidays have been tough.  First, Halloween.  We were handing out candy to the neighborhood kids, and something funny happened that made us sad later.  The doorbell rang, we opened the door, said hello to two-year-old Batman and his mama with huge smiles, and he walked under the bowl of candy I was holding, right into our house.  We were all laughing and the little boy seemed to want to make himself at home in our living room.  His mama had to chase him inside of our house, apologizing, which we dismissed, and they left shortly afterwords, for him to run into yet another living room.  He was adorable.  Of course it made us sad that we didn't have a little boy to dress this year, a little boy to chase after (would Beau be crawling or maybe even walking?) and a little boy to laugh at. 
Then Thanksgiving.  The invitation was open to us to go up to Steamboat to house- and cat-sit, for the weekend.  We decided that would be a good option, sitting in somebody else's house instead of ours for a change.  We drove up, enjoyed the familiar but still breathtaking Steamboat scenery, ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, where we were literally the only patrons until we were halfway through our dessert.  We each said what we were thankful for.  Thanksgiving was quiet for a change.  Then we went back to the house to relax and digest.  I read Elizabeth Edward's "Resilience" book, which I credit for helping me through the day.  Thanksgiving was first real holiday since Beau's death, and I cried off and on all day.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  Holidays are happy, and are supposed to be enjoyed with family, not sad and weepy and filled with a being-cheated-feeling all day.  But I think we did okay.  The day after, we went snowshoeing, which was beautiful and peaceful and quiet.  We made it through, even enjoyed ourselves, with just yet another holiday on the horizon.
We knew we wanted to do something different this year for Christmas.  We love our families dearly and want to be with them, but maybe it's not the time of year where we want to be surrounded by children and babies and happy gift-opening.  It's just too raw still.  So we decided to do something different.....and booked tickets to Las Vegas.  Why not, we figure.  We should go gamble a little, see a show, relax in a hotel room, and just enjoy the lights and the numb chaos that is Vegas.  So be it.  My mom will be joining us for most of the time we'll be there, and she has never seen a Cirque du Soleil show!  So that will be fun. 
So this year, we are skipping the tree, the decorations, and I even considered skipping the sending of the holiday cards.  But I want people to know that we love them, that we are not hermits, that we are looking with hope to the future while keeping the love of our son in our hearts.  I cringe every time I go into a store and hear the holiday music - not just because I find it slightly depressing this year (quite the opposite than the old me, who would start playing the Christmas music just after Halloween, which Sam loved....ha!)  but because I don't want to hear "Silent Night".  That song, I sang and hummed to Beau while I was pregnant with him.  We found out he was a boy on December 5 last year, and since that day I felt more bonded to him, more sure of him as a person.  I was trying to think of some lullabies to sing to him when he was born (I imagined he would have colic as I did as a baby) and I remember reading that babies have some memory of music played while in the womb; something about the memory of hearing/remembering music is soothing.  I couldn't think of any lullabies, so "Silent Night" it was, that I sang.  I imagined explaining later on that since I didn't know any lullabies, that's what I would have to sing to him to calm him down.  Well, we didn't make it that far, and now "Silent Night" is so depressing I never want to hear it again because to me, that's me and Beau's song.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace


I know I'm interpreting this song differently now, but it still makes me sad, and it's still painful to hear that song.  I don't WANT my baby to sleep in heavenly peace, I want Beau to be here for Christmas to put wrapping paper bows on his head and maybe a little baby Santa hat.  Or elf shoes with bells on them.  

We've almost made it through the toughest year of our lives, and I just want it to be over with.  It's been hard enough, so we are taking this holiday in stride and do things a little different this year.  Because, why not.  We have even reasoned, since our cat is our only "responsibility", that Zora won't mind if we take a vacation. 
We also have a lot to be grateful for in this past year, and in general, and we are done taking things for granted.  Each day is a blessing, each moment with each other, in good health, families in good health, and we know little Beau is doing what he can to help us through this tough time of year for us.  I had a dream the other night that I was looking up at the stars, and felt an immense sense of peace and calm, and suddenly felt one sweet moment of Beau's presence.  Keep them coming, baby.  We miss you. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rudy Tootie


Our beloved dog, Rudy, made her earthly departure this week.  It was time, we have been expecting it for a while now, but we are still sad because we'll miss her.  Sam got Rudy about 14 years ago, when he was in college.  She was such a good girl.  The week that Beau died, Rudy had a small stroke (we think) and was walking sideways for a while, falling down, and not eating.  We thought it would be her "time" back in March when death seemed to overwhelm us with its presence.  But then shortly thereafter, she bounced back in a huge way.  Rudy was able to enjoy the summer with us, enjoy the new house, her new yard, and her patch of sunshine on the floor.  She went for walks in her new neighborhood, and visited a lovely new park.  But, this past week, she decided it was time to go chase the squirrels in the sky.  We love Rudy dearly, and are grateful for what seemed like "extra" time with her over this painful summer.  We needed her.  Rest in peace, Rudy, you're a good girl.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Now it's been seven.

I realized towards the end of my work day today, that today's date is the seventh.  It's been seven months without Beau.  I actually felt really ok today, I feel empowered, I feel good.  Beau is never far from my mind - in fact, he's always right there.  Right under the surface.  So close I could almost touch him, but sadly, I can't.  I can just hold him with my heart and keep him near, and breathe in the presence of him that I sometimes feel when I look up at the sky.

I burst out crying last night, sort of out of the blue, but at the same time, typical.  After dinner last night, Sam and I were planning our trip to the Canyonlands (around the Moab area) for this weekend, and I was aware of something missing.  Something was missing, and at first I couldn't put my finger on it.....were we supposed to be doing something this weekend?  Was somebody supposed to come visit us?  (we've had, thankfully, lots of visitors this summer).  Did we have another commitment?  Or can we just leave for a four-day weekend and not look back?  And I suddenly realized that it was our SON we were missing.
Beau will not be in the car seat going with us on our camping trips, gurgling and making baby noises, pooping his diaper, and looking out the window at the beautiful views, and - just - being alive. 

I cried for a long time.  And I was so thankful that I have a loving husband to drop everything to hold me.  And I - again - found myself suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable.  I do that often; I am so acutely aware that just because the UNTHINKABLE happened when Beau died, I am not immune to further tragedy.  There is no guarantee that "she has been through enough".....other things can happen, other things HAVE happened to Baby Loss Mamas.  And I got so scared, and I cried some more.

Then this evening came, and I was making dinner (a traditional southern dinner, "red beans & rice" that we make often - I have learned how to make some purdy durn good cornbread....Sam's from Mississippi and I know he loves me a teeeeny bit more for that.  Heehee).  I put on a music mix that we put together for our rehearsal dinner, we had a traditional Fish Fry at my wonderful in-law's, the night before our wedding (over 3 years ago).  I was stirring the cornbread batter tonight, while our southern music mix was playing in the background, and I was thinking of how happy our wedding was, and my thoughts drifted to Beau.  Suddenly June Carter Cash's song came on, "Keep on the Sunny Side" and I felt like, through my sadness, it was playing just for me. 

There's a dark & a troubled side of life
There's a bright, there's a sunny side, too
Tho' we meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side we also may view

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev'ry day, it will brighten all the way
If we'll keep on the sunny side of life

The storm and its fury broke today,
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear;
Clouds and storms will, in time, pass away
The sun again will shine bright and clear.

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev'ry day, it will brighten all the way
If we'll keep on the sunny side of life

Let us greet with the song of hope each day
Tho' the moment be cloudy or fair
Let us trust in our Saviour away
Who keepeth everyone in His care

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev'ry day, it will brighten all the way
If we'll keep on the sunny side of life

I used to think of it as a super-happy song, but you know what?  I think it's a song of encouragement.
And then - you guessed it - I cried some more.  But through my tears of sorrow, alongside my tears of pain, I also cried some tears of gratefulness for my son to even bring his presence into my life.  I know that Beau would want me to be happy, would want us, his mommy and daddy to be the happy people that we are naturally.  And I'm trying to see that even though Beau graced us with his presence for only a short time, he provided us with so much happiness, so much LIFE, so much hope.  So I'm trying, Beau, I'm trying not to live my life as a devastated and defeated person, walking with my head down.  I'm trying to "keep on the sunny side" baby, because I know that's where you are!! 

love,
minnow

p.s. a couple wedding pictures, just cuz I wanted to share.  May 12, 2007.  It was so much fun!!


Friday, October 1, 2010

Music

My musical taste has been described as schizophrenic, and I think that's pretty accurate.  I listen to everything from Neil Diamond, to angry loud punk music (including Irish-punk), to the Beastie Boys, Karen Carpenter (So? at least I admit it), some jazz, indie rock, Indigo Girls, Johnny Cash, The Flaming Lips, 50's bubblegum oldies, the list goes on and on.......and if I've had a couple beers and 80's music starts playing on the dance floor, move over Elaine from Seinfeld, here I come! :)  There are some pop songs that play on the radio that I can get into, but for the most part, that's the only type of music I DON'T like.

And for some reason lately, I have been playing a Dolly Parton album and really appreciating the beauty of her voice.

I found this video on You Tube with Dolly and Norah Jones, and I love both their voices.  It's one of Dolly's songs about love and loss and how she had to think in terms of "opposites" in order to survive her new life without her love.  I love this performance because of the beauty of their music, and how they were able to illustrate the absurdity of a pain felt so deep.  I think of it as a metaphor for how quickly life can turn upside down. 

Here's a peek:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5B039WRrGA

love,
minnow

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Six Months.

My Dearest Beau,
It's been six months since I saw your beautiful, perfect face. It's been six long, painful months that your daddy and I have been coping with the loss of you. I've cried rivers of tears and I thought I would actually die of a broken heart.
But I know now, that no matter how many tears fall, and how much I wish (I have wished enough for the whole world!) it will not bring you back.
I would have traded everything, my whole life, everything I knew, for just five minutes with you. But we don't get that choice, do we little Beau?
Just recently I have noticed the hard edges of my jagged, torn-apart life have started to soften. And I have started to learn how to cope with this pain, with this loss of you. And I know now, that I must go on. If it means that I can keep loving you, I can go on.
I don't know why you had to leave us so soon, and I don't know why it had to be you. But, I do know for absolute certain, one thing: my love for you is greater than my pain. And my love for you grows every day.
I love you, my Beau. More than the sun shines, mommy loves you.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A smile.

I ride the bus to work. I have ever since we moved to Denver. I love the bus - the characters, the fact that I don't have to drive, deal with my own or others' road rage, scrape ice off the car in the winter, buy gas as often, being environmentally conscious, or having to pay for parking. Ok, so that's the biggest thing - paying for parking downtown (guess we're just kinda cheap, but only with with some things. Although I prefer the term "frugal").

I got on my bus this morning, as usual, and saw another bus at the station. The advertisement on the side of that bus was sky blue, with big puffy clouds and said, "STARING INTO SPACE IS UNDERRATED. Ride public transportation."

It made me smile. I catch myself staring into space often (on my own time, at inappropriate times, doesn't matter to me), and I appreciated the ad. Big smile this morning. Staring into space IS underrated, I totally agree. Thanks, bus!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hand prints

I remember sitting in the funeral home, the day after I was released from the hospital. I was asked if I wanted some hand prints done of Beau. I remember being under the influence of narcotic pain medication and in a daze, but I remember clearly being asked if I wanted some hand prints. I was re-assured that if it was too hard to look at them then, they would keep them on file for when I wanted to pick them up later. I remember also they wanted to sell me some keepsakes - particularly "thumbprint" jewelry, etc. I said, "Yes please, do the hand prints."

This whole time, it's been in the back of my mind that the funeral home has these supposed hand prints. I've considered calling them, or dropping by, to pick them up. However, something inside of me said to wait until I can handle the fact that they don't have them....somehow I knew. I called yesterday, and the woman said, "Yes, I remember, and I'll have those prints ready for you. We usually reserve those for the keepsakes, but yes, I'll have them ready." I said okay, still not convinced they had them on file. In fact, about 20 minutes later, the phone rings, and the caller id said The Monarch Society - it was the funeral home calling. I answered, and she introduced herself, and said, "I have here on file that we already gave the hand prints to you." I said, "No, I would know if you had. I don't have them anywhere. I know it, I do NOT have them, ANYWHERE." She apologized. I quickly got off the phone and Sam walked around the corner and I started sobbing to him, "I knew it! I knew it, I knew it, they don't have them, and I knew it!" Then I flung myself on the bed and sobbed some more.

Everything we have and have gotten from the hospital and from the funeral home, we immediately put in a safe place, in the SAME place. We have the footprints that the hospital did when he was born, but no hand prints. I have looked at Beau's memory box a million times since March. I smell his blanket and kiss the little knit that he wore. I touch his tiny footprints, inked onto the paper, next to the little locket of hair. I hold his pictures to my chest and sleep with the little teddy bear that the hospital gave me. The teddy bear touched Beau. And for me it's some kind of connection to him, and I sleep with the little bear clutched close to my heart, every single night. And so, I would know if we had hand prints. But we don't. I think they must have made a terrible error.

I desperately wish for those hand prints, yes. But what I want, and deeply long for obviously, is my son. I absolutely hate when I come across things that are "one more thing to mourn". There was a day that I realized that not only was I missing my son, but that HE was also missing THIS LIFE, this time with his parents, experiencing summer, ice cream, doggies, parks, grass, laughter, sunshine, rain, mountains, etc. That was a hard day. My support group facilitator had emailed me to ask how I was doing, and I told her that recent realization, and she responded, "I know, it's a bitter pill to realize how much Beau got ripped off too." So true.

Well, I'm off to ride rollercoasters with Emily, and screaming appropriately.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Weird but good.

I had a meeting today, out of the office, with a bunch of people I do not see on a very regular basis - just every few months or so. The last few meetings with this group, I skipped, for fear of running into someone who saw me pregnant, but didn't know what happened. And so inevitably, when the meeting ended today, and everyone was walking to our cars, a woman approached me that I had met a few times before, while I was pregnant. We had talked about pregnancy stuff last winter.

She walked over to me with an excited look on her face. “Did you have your baby?” she asked. [What kind of question is that, anyways? Did I deliver him? Yes. Do I have him now? NO.]

I answered her question by saying quietly, “Well he passed away actually. Shortly before he was to be born. Umbilical cord accident, most likely.”

She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you at the last meeting, so I just figured….you know, you had your baby….” Her voice trailed off, and she looked confused.

“Well, I took some time off.” I answered.

“Oh.” she said, and nodded. Then she turned to me, smiled cheerfully and said, “Well, have a good one!”

“Yeah, you too…” I said, and we parted ways.

I got in the car, sat for a minute with the keys in my lap, and stared off into space. Until I realized there was an SUV lurking behind me, waiting for my sweet parking spot. So I started the car, drove back to the office, and thought to myself, “Huh. That was an interesting response. Smile and ‘have a good one’, just seconds after I tell you what happened? Hmm, haven’t gotten that one yet.” But I didn’t get pissed at her for her odd response, I didn’t yell expletives when I was driving, I didn’t even cry. Not one tear. After the maybe 10 minutes it took me to get back to the office, I was ok. Calm even. I felt like I was control of my emotions, and it felt very very good. Weird for once, but good.

Then when I got back to the office, I saw flyers suddenly taped up in their usual spots, whenever there is a baby shower (there are lots, lately). A Noah’s ark-themed baby shower announcements for a co-worker, “Peter is having a BOY!” My thoughts were, “Yeah, yeah, someone’s always popping one out. I didn't even know Peter was pregnant." Heh heh.

There was a baby shower scheduled for me back in March, but Beau didn’t make it to it; he must have known his mom doesn’t get into those kinds of things anyways. Which made me chuckle (a tiny bit) when I realized that today. Thanks Beau, for saving your mom the embarrassment of opening up gifts in front of co-workers, saying, “Awwww! It’s so cute! Thank you!” a million times, eating an awkward catered lunch, and drinking punch in the conference room. Whoo-hoo. Not that I wasn’t grateful at all for the planned baby shower, in fact I was very touched, but my co-workers knew I was sort of mocking the whole concept anyways. Actually I remember saying to them several times, "You guys REALLY don't have to do this. REALLY." But they laughed and said it was mandatory and all I had to do was pick a date. And register for gifts. I said, "Well, ookkkaaayyy, but absolutely no baby shower games".....Have you guys been to a baby shower where they play games?! Ehh, not really my style.

Two fairly large emotional triggers in one day. And I feel okay! Baby steps (no pun intended)? Progress? Healing? I don’t know, but it damn sure feels good.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Impatient anyways.

I have been a member of the MISS (Mothers in Sympathy and Support) forum for a few months, and have been connecting with fellow bereaved mothers, people experiencing losses. A fellow bereaved mother posted this quote, and others asked if they could post it on their Facebooks. And since I am now living Facebook-free, I thought it was important enough to post it here....she speaks volumes.....

This is my path. It was not a path of my choice, but it is a path I must walk mindfully with intention. It is a journey through grief that takes time. Every cell in my body aches and longs to be with my beloved child. I may be impatient, distracted, frustrating, and unfocused. I may get angry more easily, or I may seem hopeless. I will shed many, many, many tears. I won’t smile as often as my old self. Smiling hurts now. Most everything hurts some days, even breathing, but please, just sit beside me, say nothing. Do not offer a cure, or a pill, or a word, or a potion. Witness my suffering and don't turn away from me. Please be gentle with me. Please, self, be gentle with me, too. I will not ever "get over it" so please don’t urge me down that path. Even if it seems like I am having a good day, maybe I am even able to smile for a moment, the pain is just beneath the surface of my skin. Some days, I feel paralyzed. My chest has a nearly constant sinking pain and sometimes I feel as if I will explode from the grief. This is affecting me as a woman, a mother, a human being. It affects every aspect of me: spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I barely recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Remember that grief is as personal to each individual as a fingerprint. Don't tell me how I should or shouldn’t be doing it or that I should or shouldn’t “feel better by now.” Don't tell me what's right or wrong. I'm doing it my way, in my time. If I am to survive this, I must do what is best for me. Surviving this means seeing life’s meaning change and evolve. What I knew to be true or absolute or real or fair about the world has been challenged so I'm finding my way, moment-to-moment in this new place. Things that once seemed important to me are barely thoughts any longer. I notice life's suffering more- hungry children, the homeless and the destitute, a mother’s harsh voice toward her young child or by an elderly person struggling with the door. So many things I struggle to understand. Don’t tell me that “God has a plan” for me. This, my friend, is between me and my God. Those platitudes seem far too easy to slip from the mouths of those who tuck their own child into a safe, warm bed at night: Can you begin to imagine your own child, flesh of your flesh, lying lifeless in a casket, when “goodbye” means you’ll never see them on this Earth again? Grieving mothers- and fathers- and grandparents- and siblings won’t wake up one day with everything 'okay' and life back to normal. I have a new normal now. Oh, perhaps as time passes, I will discover new meanings and insights about what my child’s death means to me. Perhaps, one day, when I am very, very old, I will say that time has truly helped to heal my broken heart. But always remember that not a second of any minute of any hour of any day passes when I am not aware of the presence of my child's absence, no matter how many years lurk over my shoulder. Love never dies. - Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, Founder of the Center for Loss and Trauma/MISS Foundation

I can identify with each and every word, so much.

In one of the baby loss books I have read ("Still to Be Born" by Schwiebert & Kirk) that my dear friend Lori sent to me, it says "Most people find that it takes more than 48 hours to two weeks to get their lives back to a normal routine after suffering the death of a close friend or relative....For bereaved parents, however, the readjustment of one's life following a loss of a child takes approximately 18 to 24 months. This does not mean that after 18 to 24 months the death is forgotten; it simply means that this much time is needed to come to terms with the loss."
I try to remember this when I am getting impatient with my grief (like now, for example). Impatient with why can't I get through [not over] this easier, why is it so hard to move forward with life, why do I still get upset at seemingly little things, why do the tears seem never ending, why does the pain seem to still spin me upside down & inside out, am I ever going to feel better, am I going to die from an actual broken heart, should I invest into stock with the Kleenex company... and all of those questions....

And what's further frustrating, is that I talk to people about grief, professionally. I get paid to talk to people who are in pain. I chose my profession with intention, in my early twenties. I intellectually understood pain. I minored in psych (well, who didn't, really) and thought I understood what grief was all about. I have been in my profession (victim assistance/advocacy) for almost 12 years now, with a couple short breaks squeezed in. Started by working in rape crisis, moved to managing domestic violence shelters, facilitated group counseling sessions with people in horrible situations, and now to my current position working with victims of felonies in a large city. I really can't imagine doing anything else. For years, I have looked human pain straight in the face and sat down with it and had conversations, as if we were old friends. Yeah, sure, pain, I know. I've heard it all before.

Well, until this happened to me. And pain took on a whole new meaning, and a whole new unwelcome intimacy. Sometimes I feel like a dentist who brushed her teeth every day, still wound up with a cavity, and was dumbfounded for how to fix it. Bad analogy probably.

But I still get impatient with the whole grieving process, think to myself, "it's been almost 6 months", looking forward to that benchmark in fact, for when I can start to feel better ("is that when I can start to feel better? Is 6 months enough to turn the corner already?") And then I remember that grief is not on my time-table, and get frustrated all over again. I am not in charge of this beast, I'm just trying to find ways to tame it, just to please LAY DOWN for a little while. And when it gets up again, I get pissed, naturally. And I want to rip my hair out and scream. Stupid Grief Beast. When will it fucking learn...

And I'm really not trying to wallow in my own sorrow, feel sorry for myself, or dwell on the past. I'm really trying not to do that. I wish so, so, incredibly much that I was back to my old self. I wish I didn't have this pain to carry. I want to be in love with life again, like I was for my whole 32 years, and tell people I am "fabulous!" again when they ask how I'm doing (yes, I was that annoying person) and dance like Napoleon Dynamite again (I wish) and laugh without feeling disloyal to my dead son. But then again, I think, "But that's why Beau picked me to be his mama." So the disloyalty is starting to fade a tiny bit.....but when will it stop? I can't help but to think that. And when will my patience with this begin?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dear FB: It's not you, it's me.

Huh....I just (on a total whim) deleted my Facebook account. No real solid reasons, just done with it and don't want some of the updates. Nothing personal to any of my FB friends.
Peace out, Facebook!

love, minnow

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whew!

Well, that was a huge relief! I just got my hair cut. And, got my eyebrows waxed, AND now have a mustache-free smile (that's what Holly and I used to call an upper-lip wax :) I have seriously been having near panic attacks at the thought of getting my hair cut for the last few months. And you know girls, once you start thinking you need a cut, you really do need one. Even if it's just a trim! I talked about my fear of this task, in our support group a couple of months ago. And since then, I considered cutting it myself (but I know better) and have been battling split ends, trying to ignore them, wearing my hair in ponytails, pigtails, claw clips, and yesterday when it was difficult to run a comb through my hair and I required five bobby pins to keep it all in place, I figured, now's the time.

But, remember that when you are in the stylist's chair, you are somewhat at her mercy for conversation. And well, that's where the anxiety came from. I was SO NERVOUS that I would be asked the "dreaded question", that I have been putting off this seemingly ordinary task for at least two months. I could just picture it: Poor innocent stylist woman asking the ordinary question (dreaded, to me): "So, do you have any kids?" and me freaking out, or saying something socially awkward like, "I'd rather not talk about it." Or worse, "Yes, but he died." and start crying uncontrollably, and then her saying something like, "Well, everything happens for a reason" or something as equally insensitive. AARGHH!! And then I'm trapped, in the stylist's chair, hair half-cut, with one of those black apron-things on, and nowhere to turn! The horror!!

I have a few rehearsed answers ready for the "dreaded question" but I STILL was dreading the conversation part of the haircut. Until the other day when I went to lunch with my friend Maya telling her my fears - she suggested I take a magazine. (Duh, seems so simple now! Thanks Maya!)

So instead of having a freak-out in the chair, here's what REALLY happened this afternoon: I walked into the salon, confident, unafraid, and armed with a magazine. And my stylist asked me, "So what are you up to today?" my answer was, "Oh, just running some errands. I'm going to let you cut away while I flip through this magazine, if you don't mind." And I smiled. And she smiled back! And she said "Absolutely! You go right ahead!" No social awkwardness! No alarm went off in the salon and no announcement over the loudspeaker said, "We have someone in Chair 2 that doesn't want to chitchat!" Ok, I'm being dramatic. But the whole time I was sitting there flipping through National Geographic while she's cutting away, I was like, THIS is what I was afraid of for months? And I sort of chuckled to myself.

(The girl that used to cut my hair on a regular basis, Tessa, was awesome and sweet and very interesting to talk to. I haven't seen her since February, when I was hugely pregnant, and I don't want to go back to her because she will inevitably ask me how the baby is, and well, I don't want to deal with that. Another reason for procrastinating the haircut. Sorry Tessa).

And the dreaded question will come up at some point in my life, and here's what I will say: "Yes, our son died in March right before he was to be born." Because that's the truth and it's simple and if I don't feel like I'm in the mood to deal with the reaction, I can say, "Nope, no kids" and not feel disloyal to Beau. Because he would understand.

So, here I am, with healthy hair and a mustache-free smile and....what's that, New Haircut? Oh, you want to go out for a drink to celebrate? Well, allllrriiiight.... :D

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Stupid Strollers.

My annoyance for strollers keeps growing. Strollers are unavoidable lately; I live in a beautiful, walkable city, we live by a few parks, and it's summer. The perfect equation for the ever-dreaded Stroller Parade. So, I've had to sort of deal with them, and by that I mean: averting my eyes every time I see one.

I went to the farmer's market today, and was once again bombarded by baby strollers. At one point, I found myself cornered by two strollers, and a couple of New Moms. (You know how crowded it gets at the vegetable stand). They didn't hear my initial "Excuse me", because as soon as the words left my mouth, one of the New Moms exclaimed, "I'm pregnant again!!" Underneath my sunglasses, I rolled my eyes. The hug and the squeals created an impenetrable barrier. "Ok," I thought, "don't panic." I took a deep breath, and instead of elbowing my way past the huggers (tempting) I just stood there for a minute. There were two babies, one in each stroller. I didn't pay much attention to the year-old girl; but the infant boy caught my eye. I looked him straight in the face, fully aware that I haven't looked a baby that closely since Beau died. He looked back. I studied him. My immediate thought was, "Now, why do YOU get to be here, and Beau doesn't? What makes YOU so special?" He kicked his chubby feet and blew spit bubbles. My heart literally ached, and suddenly I felt dizzy. That was enough. My next "Excuse me" was louder - they heard me that time. I quickly walked away, tears streaming down my face, until I got in the car, where my tears escaped into a sob.

I don't wish this pain on anybody. I don't want to be spiteful, resentful, bitter - that's not the real me. But this grief is a selfish beast - it sinks its teeth in and doesn't let go until it damn well pleases. I hate the whole process. I hate everything about losing Beau. I hate that I have a physical reaction to babies now. I hate everything that is a reminder of what I lost. And although the rage eventually subsides, it's still intense, and it's still unpredictable. But the sadness, the longing, that's always there.

I have a feeling I will never receive an acceptable answer for "Why". Why Beau specifically, why can't I have him, why did he have to die, why did this have to happen to us, why do we have to endure this, why. At first I was comforted by the thought that he might be an angel in heaven, but now I shake my head....he's just not here. And I can kick and scream and cry all I want, but he's still gone. Which means he's not in a stroller, blowing spit bubbles, going with me to the farmer's market. And it's not fair. I don't want an angel; I want my baby.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Poem and Flowers

Just wanted to share these two things....
First, something that one of the nurses (Kate) sent to me, a few weeks after Beau died. Nurse Kate helped me deliver Beau, took pictures of him, measured/weighed him, etc. She was so compassionate, and really helped us through our darkest hours. I sent her a thank-you card after I received the card & poem, but still don't think that was sufficient to express my feelings of gratitude. Thank you, Nurse Kate.




And my husband bought me flowers today. Yup, that's a red sunflower, folks :)



Oh Beau, I WISH YOU WERE HERE.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Update on Cause of Death

I had a doctor's appointment yesterday with Dr. G, who is absolutely wonderful. I had seen Dr. G for a few years prior to Kaiser. She looked at my records, and the autopsy report herself, and also sent them to her perinatologist that she works with, for review. They both came to the conclusion that it was a probable cord accident - most likely a compression. Since there were no actual knots in the cord, this is the conclusion they reached.

She said several times, "This shouldn't have happened."..........I know....but it did.

She equated it to being struck by lightening - we couldn't have predicted it, and nothing could have been done to prevent it, or save him once it happened. But I still wonder - what was I doing at the actual moment it happened? Where was I? Was I awake, asleep?

On the up side, it's relieving to be back with a good doctor, and an actual human being at that. Not that the previous doctor could have done anything to prevent Beau's death, or did anything medically wrong, but it's just emotional reassurance, ya know?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

NPR

I heard this story on NPR this morning....actually I wasn't listening until the last few minutes. Thought it was interesting.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128513493

I guess you'll have to copy & paste into the above, then click on "Listen to the Story".....

(The whole story, and the part I found most interesting, is NOT on the printed story, but only on the 6 minute sound clip. Just bear with the story for the first five minutes, because it gets really good).

love, minnow

Conversation with Kaiser Permanente

The most recent.

Today, after reaching an actual person, I said calmly to the unfortunate woman in the records department, "Yes, hello, my name is Sarah Caston, here's my ID number, and I recently discontinued my Kaiser policy. I've been calling, to try and get my medical records sent from Kaiser to my current doctor's office. I first called on June 25th, and my doctor's office hasn't received them yet?"

Her response: "Hold please".................[four minutes and twenty seven seconds later]..........."Yes, ma'am, I do see that we received your request for your records to be sent. That takes 5 to 10 business days, and then we had the holiday."

My response (not so calmly, and very clearly): "Well, it's been MORE than 5 to 10 business days. I requested they be sent by fax, on June 25th. Since then, I have rescheduled my doctor's appointment THREE TIMES, because my records STILL haven't been sent. The first time I called, I was told they would be sent that day. The second time I called, I was told it would take 5 business days. The third time I called, I was told it would take 10 business days. And now this is the FOURTH time I'm calling, and the excuse is that there was a HOLIDAY. They NEED to be sent TODAY, because my doctor's appointment is TOMORROW, and I don't want to have to reschedule a FOURTH TIME."

Her response: "I understand, ma'am. Are there a lot of records being sent?"

My response: "Yes, there are 'A Lot Of Records'. They are my records from the past year, in which I suffered a stillbirth. And my son's autopsy report - THAT NEEDS TO BE SENT TOO."

Her response: "Oh, ok. Let me check with the clerk. May I put you on hold?"

My response: "No, you may not. Here is my work number, and the best way to reach me today, and also my cell phone number. Call me when they are sent."

I mean, I totally get it that things can take a long time. I work for the State of Colorado, the gub'ment, and therefore I can understand. I have been patient.

But seriously Kaiser, I'm trying to break up with you, but you're just making this harder for the both of us! :-P

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Our Story

I’m a mother who never saw her baby open his eyes. But I’m still a mother. And he was still born. I separate the word because he was born, still. Even if he never lived outside the womb. He is loved with my whole heart and my whole being. And he will always be missed. Here is the story of our son, who was so wanted, and who is still loved, and who was stillborn:
We found out I was pregnant on August 15, 2009. I felt pretty good overall, just tired and semi-nauseous, but only sometimes. Ginger ale and toast helped. And cereal and smoothies and lots of fruit. I was one of those pregnant women who looked like they were about to pop, when I was a mere 5 months along. He moved a lot in the womb. Always moving, and often tickling me.
When I was 20 weeks, we found out he was a boy, he was already named. When I called my parents and my brother (they were all anticipating the ‘which gender’ phone call) I told them all, “It’s a Beau!” I felt like we were on top of the world. Everything was perfect.
We started to take a childbirth class, and we took a breast-feeding class too. (Yes, daddies were encouraged to come, and so yes, Sam did attend Breastfeeding 101. Sorry sweetie). In the first childbirth class, there were about 10 couples, and everyone went around the room introducing themselves. We were supposed to say our names, and how we met. Sam told the group that we met in a previous childbirth class, which made me burst out laughing. We only made it to one class, so I wonder if anyone thought it was true….
Suddenly at 33 weeks, Beau stopped moving in the womb. I thought it was because what the pregnancy books say, that they run out of space so you don’t feel the kicks as much. I started to get worried, told Sam, (wanted him to reassure me), and we decided to call the nurse line, also just for reassurance. I tried everything to get Beau to move. (I still have nightmares about that). The nurse told me to get to the hospital right away. Once we got there, we were put in a dim room, the nurse held the Doppler machine to my tummy, and nothing. No heartbeat. The nurse said she would go get the Ultrasound machine “Maybe we’ll find it on there” she said, and the whole time I was focusing on my shallow breathing. I couldn’t even look at Sam, just shake my head back and forth while I laid on the table. My arms were at my side - I couldn’t bear to look at, or touch my stomach; I was waiting until they told me everything was fine. Then the nurse wheeled the Ultrasound machine in, and I draped an arm over my face so I wouldn’t have to see, still shaking my head, “NO”.….I think it was then, that I knew. After what seemed like FOREVER, the nurse told me “Sweetie, I’m just not finding it. I’ll go get the doctor.” She had tears in her eyes, and left the room. Sam came over to me and said, “This is nature we’re dealing with. You did nothing wrong.” I remember saying, “Noooo!!! Beau!!!!!” We grabbed each other’s hands, and searched each other’s faces for some kind of refuge. The doctor quickly came in, confirmed there was no heartbeat, and she asked me a few questions – was I bleeding? Cramping? Contractions? No, no, no. Nothing. Just stillness and now emptiness. My mind couldn’t even fathom the crushing news that my Beau had died, and so I couldn’t even comprehend what she started saying about inducing me into labor. “My baby died and now I have to do WHAT?!” I thought. They were doctors – couldn’t they do something to make me “skip” that part? I tried to reason with the doctor, saying over and over in a small voice, “But I didn’t do anything wrong! I didn’t do anything wrong!” She said calmly, “I know. Sometimes this happens and we don’t know why. We will run some tests.” I didn’t know how she could be so calm. I didn’t want tests - I wanted my son! I wanted to finish my pregnancy. I wanted to go into labor suddenly the next month, hopefully a bit early, have my water break at an embarrassing time, and laugh about a funny labor story later. I wanted my son to scream and cry and pee on the doctor.
I kept hoping in the back of my mind that “Maybe they’re wrong – maybe he WILL scream and cry and surprise everyone, and we will have to decide whether or not to sue the hospital, because everyone’s being so nice right now. Suing the hospital will be the hardest decision to make”. But we had other decisions to make – did we want an autopsy? (yes) Burial or cremation? (cremation) Did we want a chaplin? (yes, please) Did we want to get our camera? (No!) But the nurses took a few pictures, of which I am eternally grateful. Did it feel morbid, having pictures taken of my dead son? Yes. It felt so wrong. But I’m so glad we did, because I have almost no memory of holding him, of almost anything that happened once they started pumping all the drugs in me. On March 7, 2010, at 6:41 pm, Beau Nicholas Caston entered the world, silently.
He was beautiful. He had a head full of dark, wavy hair, and his daddy’s nose. His hands and feet were perfectly formed. He weighed 3 pounds, 15.5 ounces, and was 18 inches long. He looked like he was sleeping. He was so precious.
We held him – me, his daddy, my parents (Sam’s parents flew in the next day), and Beau’s uncle Drew and uncle Johnny. We all told him how much we loved him and how much we wish he could have stayed.
I left the hospital the next day, still stunned, in a wheelchair, family surrounding me, my arms empty and aching. I didn’t want to leave, because that meant facing the world without my son. I had just given birth, but to death. My physical pain during and after labor was nothing compared to when my breasts swelled with milk shortly thereafter….excruciating for two weeks, and a cruel reminder that I had no baby to feed. I felt so unnatural; everything was wrong.
I didn’t even know that it was possible, for this to happen. It was too horrible to even imagine. I don’t live in a third-world country for Christ’s sake. I live in a world with technology, Ultrasound machines, clean water, prenatal vitamins, doctor appointments, pregnancy books. I was educated. I didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, I got plenty of rest, I ate organic food mostly, I put my feet up at work, all my tests were coming back “perfect” at my prenatal appointments. The doctors asked me and Sam if we had history of stillbirth in our families – we said, “Yeah, sure, our grandparents, but that was back in the FORTIES and FIFTIES”. This wasn’t supposed to happen now.
About six weeks later, I got a phone call with the autopsy results, which came back “normal”, the doctor said. I responded, “WELL, CLEARLY SOMETHING WENT HORRIBLY WRONG! WHAT! WENT! WRONG??!!” I felt like I screamed into the phone; I’m pretty sure I did. They had no answers. A few weeks later, I had an appointment with a perinatologist, who said it was his best medical guess that it was an “umbilical cord accident”.
So here we are, Beau’s daddy and me, living and breathing our worst nightmares. It’s four months later, but this pain is far from over. Sam and I hold onto each other tightly, and just hope for better days. Thank you for listening, and thank you for being there for us during this time. Your love and support is helping us weather this terrible storm.
Love, minnow

Where to start?

“A BLOG? Why are you starting a BLOG?” The word itself sounds weird, almost offensive, and seems crazy.

Here are my reasons:

Because it’s easier for me to answer the question “How are you doing?” in a paragraph, with a picture, with venting, with lots of words other than “I’m ok” (because often I’m not)….and because sometimes it’s easier for the asker not to even ask. I do so appreciate the asking, still, and I will continue to be grateful to you, as you walk with me on this horrible journey of grief.

Because when a child dies, no matter how long they were here on earth, it changes everything. The whole world has a different feel, a different color, a new heaviness.

Because I can’t keep everything bottled up. Because sometimes tears aren’t enough. Because I feel things deeper now. Because sometimes I’m so filled with rage, so filled with sadness, and surprising moments of joy, that I want to share that.

And because it’s easier to type than write in a paper journal. I do that too. Pencils have erasers, but the backspace key is so much faster. And pounding on a keyboard, I’ve discovered, is satisfying.

When Beau first died, I ran across lots of blogs from grieving parents. Some call them “web journals” which is all it is, really. Which I found surprising (the number of them), but now I know why…..because IT HELPS.

However, this is not a free ticket for you not to call me – because now you now know the answer to "How are you"? No excuses for not calling - I still want to hear your voice.

Love, minnow.