Thursday, June 18, 2015

Revisiting old wounds

*I wrote this on December 16th, 2014*

Yesterday marked six years since I was in the hospital with an ectopic pregnancy. My pregnancy was terminated on December 15, 2008 although not by my choice. And yet, it was my choice. This is part of the reason why I think it’s hard to put all of this into words. An ectopic pregnancy happens when the baby implants inside the fallopian tubes (in most cases) as opposed to the uterus (in case you are not familiar with this). The baby cannot remain in the fallopian tubes because as it grows, so will the tube, eventually causing it to rupture. There is simply not enough room (or resources) to accommodate a growing baby. If you want to be technical about it, I did make the decision to end my pregnancy; however, it was only because the pregnancy would NOT result in a live birth and because it was a risk to my life as well.
I will admit that this was much different than my first loss. With my first, I went to the doctor because I was in severe pain. It wasn’t until I went to the doctor that I learned I was pregnant and it didn’t take me long to realize that the pain I initially went in for was likely due to the miscarriage taking place. With my second pregnancy, I felt nauseous and that led me to take a pregnancy test, which was positive. I had many of your typical pregnancy symptoms, although I will admit now that I did feel something wasn’t quite right. I brushed it off because I had never been this far into the pregnancy before and I assumed I didn’t know what pregnancy should feel like. There was this one day I remember so vividly with that pregnancy. I went to the bathroom and was feeling slightly dizzy. I began to feel this intense pain in my lower abdomen and it was so severe that I curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor for a good fifteen minutes. To me, that pain indicated something was wrong so I made a call to my doctor’s office. I had an appointment in a couple of days and since I wasn’t bleeding, I was told that it was probably the uterus stretching and I shouldn’t worry too much. I felt uneasy about ignoring that pain, but I definitely wasn’t bleeding so I figured they knew better than I did. The day before my first appointment, I was taking a shower and noticed some blood. Having had that previous miscarriage, I immediately wanted to go to the ER and check on my baby. Inside, I was riddled with worry and fear, but I just had to know what was going on. After checking in and having a sonogram, I was told that I was likely having an ectopic. My baby was alive, but in the wrong place and wasn’t going to survive. I was insensitively told that if I didn’t “take care of” this “problem,” I had a chance of losing my own life as well. It was a devastating decision that haunts me to this day. It was the right decision and pretty much the ONLY decision to be made, but I was the one who made it. I allowed the hospital to inject me with a drug that killed my baby. For many years, I have lived with guilt from this decision. My rational self tells me that I did what I had to do and it wasn’t worth risking my life for something that scientifically wouldn’t come to be. Try telling that to the heart of a mom; it’s a completely different story on the other side. To me, I felt as though I couldn’t protect my child. My body failed me and as such, I failed my baby. You could probably tell me over and over again that this wasn’t my fault and my mind would agree with you. My heart, however, is the one that fights that rationale every time. Some people might think this loss wasn’t such a big deal. I mean, come on…it’s not like I lost a living child or had a stillbirth. It was much too early for me to be attached and I probably shouldn’t have gotten so emotional over “tissue.” This is not how I saw it at all. My baby had a heartbeat; he/she was alive inside me. Terminating that pregnancy wasn’t just about expelling tissue. It was about the death of all the hopes, dreams and possibilities that child would bring me and my husband.
Even though I know God has a plan for me, I hated thinking that His plan included losing two precious babies and living with the guilt that I chose to essentially abort one. It was a monumental loss to me. I cried for days on end, I scarcely ate and I questioned everything. That baby was a reality for me from the day I saw two lines on the pregnancy test. And now, I don’t even have a sonogram picture to remember my baby by. All I have are memories, many of which are difficult to revisit. And although I do have two precious miracles, it doesn’t change the hurt from that day. Every child is unique and even when you have more than one, you love them all just the same. This isn’t any different for me just because I never got to meet them or even see them on a sonogram screen. Those babies lived inside me and were a part of me. They will always be a part of me and I can take a small measure of comfort in the hopes of seeing them one day. To any woman that has ever had to wade through the gamut of emotions (including ones you didn’t even know you were capable of feeling), my heart goes out to you. It is one of the hardest things to mother a child that you cannot hold in your arms. We love them, care for them and miss them from afar. Knowing my babies still live inside my heart is not a consolation at all, but since it is all I have, I cling to it fiercely. Please be kind to any mother who has lost her child. Be gentle and even though you may not understand, please don’t judge her feelings. It is something that is indescribable until you’ve gone through it and it’s not something I would wish on anyone. To my sweet and precious child that I lost on that December day: you are loved, cherished and never, ever forgotten.

Don't call me strong

I never anticipated this would happen to me
Most days I am so blinded by tears
That I can scarcely see
You call me strong
And I’m not sure why
If you saw the face underneath the mask
It would uncover the lie
I don’t know what I’m doing
Nor do I have a plan
Sometimes I honestly wonder
How I’m able to even stand
That smile you see
That face you know
It’s been plastered on
It’s now just for show
Inside, I’m shattered
Broken into a million pieces
I still feel a gnawing pain
Even with time, it never ceases
You say I’m strong
And I still don’t know why
I never chose for my baby to die
Life continues for me
The world didn’t close up shop
But I remember the day quite clearly
When time (for me) literally stopped
I’m not strong because I carry on
Inside, I’m still torn in two
I keep moving forward
Because that’s what I have to do

The Responsibility of Driving

*I wrote this in response to an accident that occurred in Arlington, Texas some time back. A father was pushing his young son in a stroller to cross an intersection when a car failed to yield the right of way and caused an accident that took the life of the little boy.*

When I first saw this headline, I was outraged! Like many other readers (I’m guessing), the only thing I could think about was the tiny little life that was taken away. Although there is nothing that can be done to bring the little boy back, there is still an empty feeling that lingers. There is no sense of ‘justice’ and in a case like this, I’m not sure there’ll ever be. Unfortunately, there are some things in life that just simply…suck; really suck. Unimaginable things happen where no one is really at ‘fault,’ at least not in the sense that we’re used to. When you’re younger, this concept is simple; you do something wrong, you get into trouble. There is this image of good versus evil and you hope that good triumphs and evil suffers the consequences. But what happens when there isn’t a clear picture of this? What happens when there isn’t some inherently evil person who commits a bad deed? This is where the moral dilemma comes into play. There are many other instances where there is a gray area for ethics and I’ll admit that it’s difficult to wrap your head around. For example, we can all agree that theft is wrong, morally and legally. However, what if you were starving and you stole food to feed your family? Are you still legally in the wrong? How about morally? To me, it’s a gray area. We wouldn’t deny food to someone in need of it, so we’d morally excuse them (even if they were legally found guilty). How about this one: you’re working in the military and you’re ordered to be part of an air strike that will obliterate your entire hometown. Would you accept your orders or would you defy them? What if you found yourself in a situation where you must choose to end the lives of a few to save even more? Life isn’t always black and white; as I’ve said, there are gray areas. I don’t think we, as human beings, deal with these types of situations well. It disrupts the normal balance of right and wrong. Yet, these types of situations occur daily. Sometimes we simply have to accept the fact that accidents happen. Now, I’m not saying that the lady who caused this accident was right. Obviously, she was not; she failed to yield the right of way and because of her carelessness, a baby died. However, carelessness does not necessarily equal callousness. That’s what makes this particular incident difficult to accept. Legally, the only consequence of this action is a ticket. She did something we’ve all likely done at least once in our lives, whether it was intentional or not. When you’re trying to turn against traffic, it’s difficult to see what is coming. And perhaps sometimes we misjudge if we’re clear to make that turn. We might even have a line of cars behind us, honking and encouraging us to pull out into traffic when we cannot clearly see. I know this has happened to me and although I won’t give in and turn unless I know I am clear, not everyone reacts the same. I hate that this accident happened. I hate that an innocent little boy paid the price for a careless mistake. I’m even sorry that this woman will have to live with this for the rest of her life. There are no winners in this case, no triumphant party emerging. It is absolutely heartbreaking, but maybe we can all take something from this tragedy. We need to be looking out for everyone on the road, whether on foot or some type of vehicle. We need to make our roads safe for anyone who travels down it. Please be aware of your surroundings and always have your eyes on the road. The things we get distracted by are never important enough to make a colossal mistake such as this. Driving is a great responsibility that many fail to take seriously. It shouldn’t take a dead child to make us realize this. When you’re behind the wheel, make sure you’re watching for pedestrians, traveling the speed limit and obeying traffic laws. And please, try and plan your trip in advance, allowing for possible accidents, road construction and traffic in general. It is so much better to arrive at your destination fifteen minutes early than to have to endure the guilt of taking a person’s life for the rest of yours.

My response to the Ethan Couch tragedy

I consider myself to be a pretty compassionate person. I am the kind of person who believes in second chances, that rehabilitation is possible and that people who’ve failed can turn their lives around. However, I am also a big believer in personal accountability. You must own up to your mistakes, not simply try to bury them. I also believe that while leniency and common sense should prevail, there are consequences to our actions. The case of this young 16-year old that drove recklessly and killed four people does not live up to any measure of justice or personal responsibility. This teenager was sentenced to serve out x-amount of time in a rehabilitation facility in California, which his father (rightfully so) is paying for (in addition to ten-or-so years of probation). This young man has apparently had prior “incidents” where drinking and driving were involved. While I certainly believe that an intervention and rehab are important (and necessary) for this young man, I do not think justice was served to the families of the victims this boy killed. It’s true that no sentence for this young man would bring back any of the deceased. However, what does this say about the consequences for drinking and driving? What kind of example/precedent are we trying to set here? Why isn’t this young man being held accountable for his choice to drink and drive? If he had been an adult male, they would’ve thrown the book at him. This young man believed himself to be an adult. He made a conscious choice to drink and another choice to get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
My position is this: if you choose to engage in an “adult” activity, you are responsible for the consequences of said decision. There was a tragic loss of life in this instance and it’s a real shame. Undoubtedly, sending this teen to prison would be yet another loss of life as well. However, the victims no longer have a chance at life, period. Perhaps this young man’s life wouldn’t have been as fulfilling if he had to serve jail time. But, it was HIS choice and as such, he should be responsible for the fallout. It really gets under my skin that because this boy’s father can buy his son out of trouble, he is given a slap on the wrist for something that many of us would’ve been shown no mercy for. Had he been from the “other side of the tracks” (i.e. poor or a minority), he would be behind bars as we speak. I feel somewhat torn over this particular case. On one hand, I’ve had to stop myself numerous times from referring to him as a “boy.” In fact, I concede that I have used the term “young man” throughout. As someone who studied psychology in college, I do know that teenager’s minds are not fully developed at this age. Discernment has yet to be fully shaped and teenagers also have this invincibility illusion where they truly believe that nothing bad can happen to them. This type of thinking is exactly the reason why teenagers shouldn’t engage in drinking at all, much less attempting to drive somewhere while under the influence of alcohol. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept of right and wrong; it’s simply that they don’t believe that negative consequences will directly affect them and their lives. That is, until after it does. Such is the case here.
Having said all of that, I still believe that the punishment was too light and had a lot to do with money. Where do we draw the line with these young people? How much bad behavior do we write off as normal teenage thinking and reasoning before we start applying adult consequences to their actions? Is the act of plowing down 4 innocent people on a sidewalk enough to elicit a harsher sentence? I think so, I really do. As much as I understand about the way the mind works, there HAS to be a reaction on our part. Actually, we should really be proactive and try to keep things like this from happening, period. But once we reach this place, we have no choice but to react. And it has to be enough to make other teenagers think twice before committing this same act with tragic results. If we stand by and do nothing (or not much of anything), we are going to create entitled adults who believe they are “untouchable.” Again, what kind of message do we need to send to young kids? Telling them not to drink is just not enough anymore; they are obviously not being reached at this level. We need something more. We need to figure out how we can take measures to change the thinking of these young people before more lives are lost.
I sincerely hope that part of this boy’s probation will include having to talk to other kids at schools and other awareness seminars. I also hope that he feels remorse for his actions and understands how his selfish needs have forever changed the lives of the victims’ families. No matter what action has been taken in this case, I’m sure we can all agree that such senseless acts need to be addressed (again). As parents, we need to teach our children that while we are able to make decisions for ourselves, the things we choose to do can also affect others and often times, in absolutely tragic ways. My heart goes out to the families that were devastated by this young man’s lack of judgment. Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen more done in this case, especially where prior, similar acts were committed. I hope that the judge who passed this sentence down is able to reconcile this decision and it doesn’t torment them for some time to come. And yet, in a way, I do hope the judge endures some sleepless nights over this. I’m not so sure that they would’ve acted so dismissively had this been a family member of their own. Let’s keep everyone involved in this tragic incident in our thoughts and prayers. And please, please let’s talk to our children and all children/teenagers. It is our responsibility to convey how drinking and driving is not a game. Lives are forever changed when this decision is made. This is what we all need to take away from this.  

tragedy tradgedy

Being a Woman

You are beautiful
Inside and out
Don’t let your heart give in
To feelings of fear and doubt
You are a queen
Be sure you are treated as such
Take whatever is given to you
And give back just as much
Don’t allow life’s obstacles
To keep you from your dreams
Hold onto your faith
Things aren’t always as difficult as they seem
Know your worth
And let it show
Your confidence will shine through
And your heart will glow
Your gentle spirit
Doesn’t make you any less strong
Tear down the stereotypes
And prove them all wrong
Being a woman is a marvelous thing
Embrace all that you are
Don’t let anyone limit what you can do
And keep reaching for the stars!

YOU get over it

Too many times have grieving mothers (and families) heard some combination of these words:
“How long is it going to take for you to get over that?”
“Aren’t you over that yet?”
“You should just get over it.”
There are many well-meaning people who simply don’t know what to say to the ones who are grieving the loss of a loved one, especially when it comes to babies and children. However, the words “get over it” should never be uttered to the grieving, no matter how well-meaning the intention. First of all, what exactly are they supposed to “get over?” Get over the death? Get over the life (no matter how short)? Get over the feelings of despair? Or is it simply wanting the person to return to what they feel is a sense of normalcy (whatever that means)? Let’s make one thing clear here: the “it” or “that” that one should “get over” is a life. It doesn’t matter how short that life was; if the person is grieving that loss, it meant something. And those feelings are deeply felt; they go beyond the loss and spill over into the decisions that were made, feelings of guilt and many other overwhelming emotions. It’s something that the griever doesn’t ever want to “get over” because that would mean forgetting that the life ever existed and that’s just wrong (on so many levels) to ask someone to do. This is something that will be forever imprinted into this person’s heart, soul, even their very existence. It’s a slap in the face to be told such callous words. People who’ve experienced loss wish more than anything they weren’t grappling with these feelings that will last a lifetime. As time passes, the grief may not always be at such a high level. However, there will be triggers, anniversaries and moments where the pain comes flooding back and even though it hurts like hell, knowing the pain still exists is a reminder that that precious life hasn’t been forgotten. It’s an unimaginable feeling to know that the scars will always be a blessing and a curse. Even if a loss could be gotten over, I doubt that the griever would want such a thing to occur anyway. Here is what I have to say to anyone who thinks it is okay to utter the phrase (in any combination of words) “get over it.”
I will always remember my baby. YOU get over it.
I will speak my baby’s name and talk about them. YOU get over it.
I will likely never be the same again. YOU get over it.
I will grieve the way I want to, no matter how long it takes. YOU get over it.
I think it’s time for the grieving to throw this phrase right back at the ones who feel the need to tell us this in the first place.

Much to be Thankful For

No one can escape the sorrows of this world. We will all experience tragedies over the course of our lifetime. It isn’t something we can control most of the time and we simply have to find ways to cope when it does happen.
However, being thankful is something that is well within our control and despite what might be happening in our lives, we can always find something to be grateful for. We can be thankful for simply waking up to see another day. Or that we have food on our plates, a roof over our head and clothes on our backs. We can be grateful for the ability to see, hear, move and speak. We can be thankful that we live in a country where we can voice our opinions and have platforms to be heard from. We can be thankful for our families, our childhood and our children. We can be thankful for our health or our jobs. We can be thankful for the sun rising and setting, for the moon that illuminates our nights or the shade the trees provide. We can be thankful for music that touches our heart or words that enrich our minds. We may not be thankful for all of these things, but I guarantee that if you look hard enough, you can find many things to be thankful for. Gratefulness isn’t about being upset over the things we don’t have, but being appreciative of all we do have. Even when times are hard, if we can find things that we are thankful for, our perspective will change and perhaps open the door for more things to be thankful for. If we change the level of our attitude, the level of our gratitude will also change. We can always want for more, but to be grateful for what you already have; that’s a remarkable quality to possess.