Banality of body image

It feels weird to write about something as banal as body image in the wake of a child loss tragedy (mine, Connecticut’s, yours, maybe). But I’ve read a few posts about it on Still Standing Magazine’s site and, well, it’s my turn now.

I largely echo what is said in this article on baby weight without the baby. And also on my post a while back on being a blob.

Not everyone has body image issues, but it’s a fairly regular companion in many of our lives, and I’m no stranger to it. I was far from being even a little bit athletic before I carried Henry, but my eating habits of late have been pedantic to say the least.

I’m a comfort eater – salty, crunchy chips and tasty chocolate are nearly always available in my house (guess who does a lot of the shopping ūüėČ ). When we were losing Henry, I hardly ate. Then I switched gears somewhere along the way and began to indulge myself. I’d like to stop, though it’s hard to turn away from the evolutionary habit of wanting high calorie foods in stressful times, especially in the winter. And getting all dressed up just to go for a measly walk when it’s cold outside? Fuggetaboutit.

All excuses aside, in the end, it’s my choice to do nothing. But do I ever think about it! The mental exercises revolving around thinking about my weight alone should burn enough calories to keep me fit, but unfortunately, the body doesn’t work that way.

hngngnghghgngnghghghghghghhh!

Some of it is weight that I put on during pregnancy and, like the article I’ve linked to above states, there’s no baby here to help burn the extra calories off via breastfeeding. No toddler to chase around and let my meals turn cold and unappetizing. There’s just me, and it’s hard to muster up the motivation to get my butt moving, especially when there are days whittled away with grief, self-pity, and exhaustion.

The New Year is the ideal time to make a resolution to change my ways. Weight loss is probably one of those hot-ticket, much sought-after prizes many of us aim for this time of year after the shovel and stuff eating roulette of Christmas. Trouble is I’m not a believer in New Year resolutions.

My minimal activity and eating habits as of now won’t get me to lose any weight. Thankfully, I don’t think I’ve added much more on, but I haven’t lost enough to fit into my old jeans, and I’m not about to step on a scale. I’m still wearing maternity pants because they’re the only thing that fits, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to go pants shopping right now (talk about depressing…). So I have the daily reminder of not being pregnant each time I get dressed, and I feel like a clown – a fraud – getting in to these big pants. But they’re comfy, so I’ve settled for now.

The fact that I’m writing about this hopefully means that I will make the choice to do more, but I think I just have to accept myself as a couch potato for the moment. I know change is inevitable, and I’m not striving to look like a model… just to be able to fit into my old pants, which were a far cry from model-thin anyway!

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Grief’s surprising physical effects / lazy Mel

One thing that took me by surprise is the lack of physical endurance I now have. Sitting on my bum without motivation to do anything has taken its toll.

I have rekindled my social life, and had a wonderful weekend seeing friends. One night, Tyler and I went for dinner then a game of pool with a wonderful couple. We didn’t park that far from the restaurant, but the combined walking, standing and pool-playing made me feel very tired. The next morning, my feet hurt, and I could feel it in my legs.

Seriously!

I’m finding it a bit funny that some of the effects of grieving is having a soft, mushy, weak body. In my pre Henry-loss life, I wasn’t athletic by a long stretch, but I generally walked a lot, went swimming occasionally, and spent drastically less time just sitting around.

I try to get myself out for a short walk once a day. I don’t always get around to it, but it’s always on my mind. I know exercise makes me feel good, but I find it really hard to get the will to interrupt my slow, comfortable day to exert myself.

I’m hoping that will change. Years ago, I was an avid jogger, was very fit and felt good, so consequently, I looked good! I hate jogging now, and I have to stop trying to convince myself that I’ll take it up again with the same fervour I once had.

I also know that exercise helps with stress, makes you sleep better, is really good for you, yadda yadda. And if a weekend without much physical exertion has me pooped, then maybe I should try harder to move a little more every day so that I can incorporate that into my new normal. Oooh, but being lazy is so much EASIER!!!!!!!! *sigh.

 

Oh, hell

You could consider today a multi-layered cake… of crap. Maybe even a messy mille-feuille.

Today marks several occasions, all closely nestled around my heart.

For starters, my darling, beloved, sweet Henry was born, and died, two weeks ago today. It also would have been my father’s 67th birthday today, had he not died suddenly and tragically of a heart attack in the summer eight years ago (side note, his funeral was on my birthday).

These two events alone cloud my heart ¬†in sadness, and would have me spend the day in a quiet sadness. They would be the custard and cream of my mille-feuille. The flaky pastry of this sweet dessert (of crap, may I remind you) is that my poor 93-year-old grandmother, who has severe osteoporosis and constant aches and pains, took a fall yesterday and had to be rushed to emergency at the Jewish General Hospital (just down the street from Sainte-Justine Hospital, where I suspect my Henry still lies, because we have yet to hear anything about coming to pick up his ashes). I rode in the ambulance with her to the hospital, and that first whiff of hospital smell didn’t do me any good. Even my wounds from delivering Henry haven’t completely healed, and here I was surrounded again by the same equipment that was used on me when I was saying goodbye to my son.

The sweet top-layer of this mille-feuille of crap, is my poor mom. She has been my buffer, my warrior, my caretaker since Henry died, and now, she is over-stretched and having to take time off work to take care of my grandmother while she’s stuck in the emergency room where the doctors found a broken collar bone, and possibly more fractures on her hip. Not to mention it’s her departed husband’s birthday today.

My mom wouldn’t be alone in taking care of her mother, but one sibling lives in Europe (and would otherwise be fighting right by her side) and another brother is at the other end of the country, and is currently grieving the loss of his father-in-law. There is another son just outside Montreal, but things are sensitive between him and the rest of the family at the moment (as so many of you may understand!). So essentially, my mom is doing this alone.

And the last sweet part of this pitiful dessert, the swirly chocolate part on the sugary topping, is my poor step-son. His teacher called me yesterday to say that he’s not doing so well this week. He seems sad, and not very interested in school.

 

As horrible as this is, it gives me some relief because what I have seen at home is a happy, normal kid – which worried me, because he also suffered a great loss, and wasn’t showing any ill-effects of losing his brother.

Between the madness of rushing my grandmother to hospital, Tyler was able to attend to his son, and bring him to his regularly scheduled art therapy session, where they were able to talk about how my step-son was feeling.

Nobody is alright! It’s crazy. Someone please tell me a joke or something.

 

Happy day that sucks, everyone.

Love,

Mel

 

Gratitude through grief

When I lost my dad eight years ago, I was a daughter mourning her father. My mother was mourning her husband, and my grandmother/aunt/cousins mourned him in their own way according to the relationship they had with him.

As I mourn Henry’s death, I feel so fortunate to be grieving the loss of the same relationship with my partner. I hate having something so painful in common with him, but we draw a lot of comfort from each other. He has been my rock, and a constant source of love and support.

We’re together, but separate, mourning in our own individual ways. Some people pour themselves in to work to restore a sense of control and normalcy after something as devastating as losing a child. My partner had no choice but to start working pretty much right away because of deadlines, etc. I can’t do that, but I’m lucky to be a freelance writer with a bit of cash in the bank to help me coast for a little while. This means I don’t have to rush back to a job if I’m not ready, and my editors are kind enough to give me the time I need to feel ready to write professionally again (if any of you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart).

I rely on my fingers to fly across the keyboard for my livelihood. But in the first days after learning Henry’s diagnosis, and the days following his delivery and death, I couldn’t make sense of my computer. I misspelled everything, got confused, and just closed up shop, only writing to a few friends to tell them the news. I let go of all of my commitments (even a beloved pottery class), and just existed (I don’t mean to sound like this is in past-tense… I’m still just a breathing, sitting blob).

Through the past two weeks, I have also been floored by the graciousness and generosity of my friends and family. This has been, without a doubt, the most difficult time of my life.

This post is about other things that I am thankful for.

We¬†received a beautiful bouquet¬†flowers from my old workplace, and I don’t know how many meals from friends and family, left innocently on our front porch. And I thank you for each fork-full that I didn’t have to cook myself, each kind thought, and every card that has passed through our door.

Thank you DSF

I’m also very appreciative of my friends, who have been so kind and decent as to leave my partner and I in peace with our pain. We haven’t received any surprise drop-in visits or any mournful, uncomfortable phone calls. We’re still not ready, but we’re getting there, and we thank you so much for your patience while we stay in our cocoon.

We have literally been hiding, spending days in bed. I feel that I’ve made some progress because I’ve been camping out on the sofa rather than our bed – which is getting kindof grimy and full of crumbs. But we’re exhausted, even though our days are very sedentary.

I’m also trying to find the motivation to take care of myself now that I no longer have a baby to keep me eating healthy and¬†exercising. While I was pregnant, Henry gave me every motivation for self-maintenance, like flossing and eating veggies and completely cutting out coffee and wine.

Now that my belly is empty, I find it hard to care whether I eat in a day, floss, or do other regular self-maintenance tasks. I’m thankful for my mom, who has gently urged me to speak with my naturopath to make sure I don’t go completely off the rails, and who is arranging that I get a massage eventually. Maybe one day in the far distant future, I’ll even get a hair cut and go for a walk in the day time.

Lastly, I’m very thankful to whoever is reading my blog. It is my hope that other grieving parents, no matter how you lost your child, reads these so that they feel they’re not alone.

With love and gratitude,

Mel

Two weeks

Two weeks ago today, we had our first ultrasound. September 19, 2012 is the day we found out that everything was not OK.

While an ultrasound uses sound vibrations to get an image of babies inside their mummies, these sound waves crashed into the depths of our lives and¬†reverberated¬†throughout the universe in a spiral until it came to a deafening halt on September 28. We’re now trying to pick through the rubble and aftershock.

For today’s entry, I am sharing the note that I wrote on facebook once we had a diagnosis for Henry, which was the Monday following our first ultrasound.

Henry’s first ultrasound photo, before we knew.

My news from the last week

Friends,

Mine and Tyler’s lives have changed drastically in the last week. It began in May, when we had the wonderful news that we were expecting a little one to grace our homes with joy sometime in late January. We eagerly anticipated our first ultrasound, which happened last week, on September 19. We had no idea anything had been awry during my pregnancy – no false contractions, bleeding, or anything else – just a regular, easy pregnancy to date that brought us a lot of joy.

During our first ultrasound, we were, at first, elated. It was our first time seeing our child. We found him to be the most beautiful little baby, and we were so proud. He was funny because he moved away from the ultrasound wand when the doctor pushed in a little harder to get a clearer picture of some part of his anatomy.

Unfortunately, this and the feelings of him kicking and wiggling from the inside will be our only memories of him.

The doctor informed us that our little boy’s limbs were really under-developed, and his skull was too large for what a typically growing baby at 20 weeks measures. So much so that they actually pushed my due date to the end of February. We were then handed over to St. Justine’s Hospital to see a genetic specialist, but we had a few days to wait before getting the phone call that would confirm our appointment.

For the next few days, I was a zombie. I cried nearly constantly, and only ate for the benefit of the baby whose diagnosis we had yet to learn. We had no idea what could be wrong, and tortured ourselves by Googling what he could possibly have. The doctor speculated that it could be thanatophoric dysplasia, or one of many forms of dwarfism. We prayed for any form of dwarfism, hoping that we’d be one of the lucky families that learns that everything was actually okay withour son – that he was just growing a little slowly and would need more time, or that it was because of me – sometimes, women with non-typically shaped uteruses show smaller babies who are actually growing healthy and strong. But this wasn’t the case.

I forced myself to think positively for a few days – what could it hurt? I was dismayed at the challenges our child would experience at being different, but anything was better than hearing a death sentence for our unborn child. But we were not so lucky.

Finally, our appointment to see the genetic and fetal bone-formation specialists at St. Justine Hospital came this past Monday. We sat around nervously waiting to hear if we could get a diagnosis so that we could either stop worrying, or, at absolute worst-case scenario, be faced with a tragically difficult decision.

Our ultrasound doctor – who as also our fetal bone growth specialist doctor, was simply fantastic. She said she would go piece by piece, organ by organ, and see if she would be able to let us know why we were there. Not long after investigating, she was able to definitively diagnose our son. It was the worst news we could possibly hear. She said that our son has osteogenesis imperfecta, type 2a. It was fatal, and she was very sorry.

His bones had not been growing properly because they kept breaking – even in the safest place for him to be – in my squishy womb. ¬†But we can’t even protect him from harm in there. Ater we left, four specialists met to go over the results of our ultrasound, and they unanimously ageed that he had this deadly disease, where bones don’t grow properly – the mineral foudation that makes bones rigid simply wasn’t there. His ribcage wasn’t growing in a way that would protect his lungs, and, because ears are made of bones that let us hear, he is also likely deaf. If we carried him to term, the birthing process would re-break every bone in his body, even with a gentle C-section, and he would then die of respiratory or heart failure. We wouldn’t even be able to hold him to comfort him when he cried.

We spent a good few minutes wailing inconsolably in the room, and will be every day, likely for the next few weeks, days and months. This was NOT what we wanted to hear. Not our baby. Not our sweet, little innocent perfect, beautiful baby, who we were so looking forward to raising, introducing to butterflies, music and reading. Who we were going to teach to walk, hear his first words, hear laughing and crying. Instead, we had an impossibly hard decision to make.

No words exist to truly express the deep and dark sorrow that we have been living with. One week ago, everything seemed to be fine. All of my blood and urine samples, and fetal heartrate were excellent. We were joyously waiting to meet our little one. Instead, we are preparing to say goodbye.

Thank you to everyone who has already shown us their love and support. We have kindly been asking to be left alone in our sorrow, and we very much thank you for respecting our wishes. This isn’t something we feel ready to discuss or explain.

At a later date, when we feel ready, we will hold a memorial service for our little Henry. We know that he will soon be with his Grandpa Richard and Grandma Arlene, and that we’ll all be together again someday.