Thursday, June 10, 2010

What grief looks like one year later

"Grief is a winding, nasty road that has no predictable course, and the best thing you can do as a friend is to show up for the ride. You cannot rush grief."
Angie Smith

One year ago today I experienced pain that I never knew existed. The type of pain that only seems real in nightmares. I have never felt like the wind had been knocked out of me until that very night, standing in the NICU holding Nolan while they did chest compressions on him. I never knew how much you could lose in a matter of seconds, because just seconds after putting my hands under his 13 ounce body, they called the code. He was done, his fight was over, he laid there lifeless and not kicking and moving around like we knew him. All I remember is falling into Chris' arms and Valorie wrapping her arms around us. It was a nightmare, surreal and I couldn't even grasp what just happened.

Our hopes, our dreams and our new life was just ripped from us in a mater of seconds with out warning. Just one hour ago, I just finished pumping, I was tucking myself into bed and ready to get some much needed sleep. I knew Nolan was in good hands and never suspected a thing would go wrong. NEVER. Until they called down to my floor and told us to get to the NICU as fast as possible. I remember the tech saying she thought he was coding.

It tore me apart that the first time we held our son, he had no pulse, he was turning blue and was cold. I couldn't keep him warm, I couldn't protect him, I couldn't do what Mother's are suppose to be able to do. What good was I? I was in disbelief that we were in the "quiet room" it's the room they only take people to give bad news or take people when bad things happen. We were there.

Baby Nolan 031

Grief then was raw, indescribable, confusing and down right painful. It felt like there was no reason to continue on, how could we? We lost our innocence, we lost our new life and now what do we do? I never again want to go back to those weeks following June 11th, it's painful just to think about it. I'm not really sure how I survived because I don't remember much, I think I was in auto pilot. I went through the 5 stages of grief daily. I had moments of peace and moments of complete anger where I wanted to throw a brick through a glass window.

I counted the weeks since we lost him, that turned into months and now I am sitting here a year later asking where time went.

I tried counseling, I tried therapy but in the end blogging my feelings was my therapy. I did it for me and only me. I hated when people said how 'strong' I was because I didn't feel it. If it was up to me, I would have slept for weeks in a row, I didn't want to get out of bed but I had to. It was survival, it was what I had to do in order to put one foot in front of another and continue life.

So a year later, I am here. Simply here.

I have learned how to cope, how to grieve in my own way and how to survive. I think about Nolan everyday, I look forward to the chances I get to talk about him because it keeps him real.

A year later, I still have a hard time with others pregnancies, looking at new babies and watching new parents. I run from these situations. In all honesty, it has been my biggest battle. Jealousy and envy are ugly beasts, but I can't help but look at those people and ask, why not us? I crave that perfect naive pregnancy and the exciting birth and all that follows it. I would do anything to have a screaming baby keeping me up, I would do anything to make it to 40 weeks no matter how uncomfortable and huge I was, I would do ANYTHING to feel normal again. So a year later, I run. I run far from any pregnancy and I can't help it. Pregnant again or not, it's something I still hide from. I am scared of my own pregnancy let alone, others.

A year later, people expect me to "get over it, time to move on and focus on the 'important' things"

Well people, grief is something that can't be rushed. It is a different journey for every single person. As Angie Smith says, it's unpredictable. Some days are easier than others and a year later the bad days are fewer. But I still have days that I want to crawl in a ball, close my eyes and not wake up. I have those days where I let things people say bother me. I have those days where all I want to do is wallow in my tears. Sometimes the triggers hurt more than I can bear. I think about Nolan EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. It could be 3-4 years from now and I can guarantee you, I will not be "over it" Grief is a life long journey. I have learned who my true friends are because of it.

I will NOT get over it, nor will a new pregnancy make me "move on". I am blessed and 100% completely thankful for being pregnant, especially during this time. But the hormones don't help the overwhelming emotion. You don't move from one baby to another to 'fix' things. So if I want to dwell on something at that very moment, let me. Get over yourself, it's not your place to say how I need to deal. Let people grieve the way they want to, as long as they are not hurting themselves, that is all that matters. Just because I am grieving doesn’t mean I am NOT taking care of our new baby.

One year later, I smile more than I cry when I think about Nolan. I think about how we got the chance to meet him, learn his personality and have that hope. I think about the life we were given after a DR said it was never going to happen. I think about how Nolan made us parents and how special that is. I think about all the support we received after we lost Nolan. I think about how many people remind me daily about Nolan. I smile when I talk about him.

A year later, I think I am doing 'good'. I could have fallen off the deep end. Tragedy can rip marriages apart but Nolan brought us closer. I have met amazing friends, life long relationships and I am thankful for these girls.

A year later, I can laugh again. I can remember pieces of how I used to be happy. I look back at pictures of 2008 before everything happened and miss how simple our life seemed. I miss it, I do.. and I wish I still felt THAT way. But I have accepted our new way of life. I can't change it so I try to accept it. It’s just a new normal that takes A LOT of time to grow on you.

A year later, I still wonder what our life would be like if Nolan was still here. I wonder how big he would be, what milestones he would be hitting and simply what our life would be like. I have a hard time looking at babies that would be his age because it makes me crave him a million times more. I may be a 'Mom' but I sometimes don't feel like it because I couldn't tell you how to care for a newborn, when to feed solids or how to do anything baby related. So I struggle with that.

Grief is ugly, unpredictable and it's a tool that truly shows you who true friends are. I have learned that in the past year. It has caused me to hold grudges, lose friends and feel pain I never knew existed. But I have accepted that it a life long journey, it's here to stay. Good days and bad, it's just part of the motions.

So at 2am tonight, I hope I am sleeping. I don't want to feel what I know is in store for me. Because I know how raw and painful it is, I NEVER want to feel that again. But it's hard when your thinking,

"At this time last year...."

The next 24 hours will be hell, and I am NOT ready for it. But I know I will survive and will conquer it with the love of Chris, family and my dear best friends. I plan on reading all of Nolan's cards that we got last year tomorrow. I remember opening them all, but I couldn't tell you one thing that was said because I was not in a frame of mind to comprehend when I read them last.

photo(17)

Tomorrow will be bittersweet. I will be stepping foot through the same doors I was wheeled out of last year empty handed. I couldn't wait to get out of there that very morning after I wrote his last blog. I was done. But tomorrow, I hope to get a healthy glimpse of what is taking residence in my belly. And I hope that I can walk out with a brief smile and some new ultrasound pictures in hand.

God bless everyone who had been here for us in the past year. In the good and bad times, who didn't selfishly walk away from us when we needed you most. Because my new motto is...

You may be there in our good times, but if you can't genuinely be there in the bad, what good are you to me?

41 comments:

Jen said...
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Saffy said...

You're written some pretty profound stuff here, Ashley. I just wanted to say, again, that I'm so sorry that Nolan didn't make it and that I'll be one of gazillions of people thinking of you, Chris and Nolan today. Hugs.

Kristen DH said...

Ashley I know there is no word to say to console you but I know that you have made your sweet angel nolan a major part of all of our lives. His life and spirit will live on forever because you keep his memory alive.a day doesn't go by that I think and pray for nolan,you and chris.

johannanurse said...

Ashley, Nolan is in the arms of Jesus today. We have a promise that we will see him again. It's a promise. I thank God for that promise. It's as real as anything. Some people who don't beleive in God have NO hope and those Mom's have probably gone off the deep end. But we beleive in Heaven and that Nolan and Eli are there. And we will get there one day to hold our sons. I know this is a tough week and I am so sorry. I have been through the pain and to think someone else is going through it hurts me all over again. I wouldn't wish this kind of pain on my worst enemy. You are going through the motions today and grieving like a "normal" person would grieve. Eli's birthday came and went and I didn't hear a word..not a peep...not even a mention of his name from any of my husband's family. That is NOT normal. It's like he didn't even happen. So, you are doing everything right. I love you and will be praying for you tonight. It may be a long one.

Izzy said...

I think about you and Nolan every day. He's such an important person, even today. I love you guys dearly, and I know that you have to do things your way. But I'll always be here with a hug and an ear to listen.
<3

belle said...

how beautifully and tenderly written.

(((hugs)))

Betsy & Kurt said...

This is such a beautiful post, thank you so much for writing it. You write so beautifully and I can always identify with your feelings, even though we're only 6.5 months out from losing Olivia. I'm glad you have such supportive people in your life. I wish you the best at your appointment!

Maggie said...

Oh Ashley, this was so beautifully written. You really captured everything you've felt so well. Nolan is real and will live on forever every time you think, speak or see something that reminds you of him. I'm thinking of you so much this week! Hope your appointment goes well tomorrow. :)

cmatsukes said...

Well said Ashley I think about Mike everyday too and My Mom My Sweet Mom my best friend I know people have said that to me but I cant get over my grief either it is with me always yes my Life has gone one and love everyone it especially John who was there as a friend first and was there to listen to my heart and soul, So I understand grief so well you are doing great and dont ever feel you have to answer to anyone about that.

CM said...

My thoughts have been with you all week and will continue to be, especially for the next couple of days. Happy Birthday little guy!

Holly said...

Thinking of you so much. It's amazing how far you can come in just a year. Like you, I smile more and have more good days but it still hurts!! 3-4 yrs, 10-15 yrs, 40-50 yrs...no matter how much time passes we'll never be over it or forget them.

Holly said...

Thinking of you so much. It's amazing how far you can come in just a year. Like you, I smile more and have more good days but it still hurts!! 3-4 yrs, 10-15 yrs, 40-50 yrs...no matter how much time passes we'll never be over it or forget them.

Sarah said...

This is so sad, but so beautiful too :) There is no question of the amount of love you have for your Nolan. My heart just aches and goes out to you. I was having a pretty bad day. Your post had me crying for you, crying for me, crying for everyone that suffers. Even though I lost my baby with a miscarriage, and never held him/her, your words hit home for me. Thank you for sharing this. I will be praying that you have a healthy and happy pregnancy with Nolan's baby bro or sis :) You deserve all the happiness in the world. Would you mind if I quote you on something in my next post?

Angie said...

You've said it all so perfectly. Thinking of you today.

Whitney Anne said...

I'm new to your blog, and I'm really sorry for your loss. I can't imagine but you seem like you became a very strong person out of it. I almost lost my son because he was also early and I thank god every day that he's still here. I love your motto. Since i'm going through a divorce at the moment, I have also noticed who my true friends are. Congratulations on the new baby. I wish you all the best.

A Working Mum said...

There is nothing that I can say that will make the the next few hours any easier, so all I can say is that I am and will be thinking of you! I have been following your blog for over a year (probably my first comment though, sorry) and I have been so touched my your honesty to and willingness to share your feelings.

Busted Kate said...

Beautifully written, heartbreakingly sad. Thinking of you. HUGS

Diana said...

I've been thinking of you and Chris all day today. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for the reminder for those of us who have never walked your journey to be a little more grateful and appreciative of what we have. To be a better friend, to understand grief more.

You have a right to feel however you do right now - that is your child and you are his mother and no one can tell you what you should be saying, doing, or feeling about it.

((hugs))

Christy said...

Well said. Thank you for sharing what you are feeling and for sharing those quotes.

Thinking of you.

((HUGS))

Katie said...

Thinking of you, Chris, and Nolan today. HUGS!

zookeeperjess said...

I came from Hormonal Imbalances. I just watched Noah's story on one true media and am sobbing. What a small, wonderful, special little man. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. You have every right to feel sad or happy whenever you feel like it.

*hugs* I cannot even begin to fathom how hard the next 24 hours are going to be for you. I will be praying for you and your husband.

Mina said...

I've just stumbled upon your blog, and had to say hi.

You don't know how much your posts about Nolan touched me, and I am so sorry he didn't make it. My nephew was born at 26 weeks, and passed away a month later in the NICU. The pain in my heart will never go away, but I am grateful for the time we had for him.

I'm thinking of you this week...

*Laura Angel said...

Gosh everything I felt was like you stole the feelings right from my head. The first two weeks after were impossible. I like you, wish to never go back. I have to steal the last words on your blog and post on my fb because its sooo true! :) Hugs honey!

Melissa said...

This is so touching, thinking of you. I am sorry about your sweet little guy.

~Stephie~ said...

Beautifully said. Much hugs and loves for You, Chris, Lil Nolan and the lil one growing inside of you today :D

Preemie Mama said...

I have been a lurker for a while. I had a not-so-easy pregnancy (though not nearly as traumatic as yours) and delivered my daughter via emergency c/s at 27w1d. Thank God, she survived. That's my story in a nutshell. In all likelihood, we will have no more children.

I had to comment on something you said, about how you don't feel like a mom sometimes b/c you don't know when to start solids, etc.

Being a mom is not about knowing those kind of things. I was/am a mom, and I did not know that. I had to figure it out, just like you will. We each have to figure it all out. Having a living child does not make you a mom. Loving your child, trying to do the best for your child, living a good life that your child would be proud of and could model after, THOSE are the things that make you a mom, whether your child is living with you or living in heaven. Strength is getting up every morning, even when you don't want to. THAT is why people say you are strong. God bless you, Chris, Nolan, and the little one you are carrying.

Blair said...

Thinking of you. Always.

Sara said...

I think you truly took the words right out of all of the mouths of us grieving mommies.

I read your post and could truly see myself writing those exact same things.

Your motto at the end sums it up amazingly. Thank you for writing it!

Happy 1st heavenly birthday Nolan. Have lots of fun up there today with all of your friends! Send your mommy and daddy some extra love today, they sure do miss you!

Misty said...

Thinking of you today. Much love being sent your way.

Amanda and Anthony said...

Ashley, I've been reading your blog for some time now, but I've never commented. I suppose now is the best time. You are an amazing pillar of strength, and I know your sweet boy is looking down on you and proud of you, just like you are proud of him. I'm glad blogging has helped you in this grieving process. We all just have to find what works for us. I wish you the very very best with your pregnancy. You are an amazing mother. Hugs.

Lauren said...

I think that picture says it all.

Thinking of you today. xoxo

u_talk2much said...

I pray for you on a regular basis. I have never come close to walking in your shoes but you have touched me Nolan has touched me. I hope you do find some joy in the next few days and see your 2nd child growing and find joy in that as well and not so much fear. You deserve this darling life so much! In my thoughts you will be!

Mrs. Hoppy said...

Thinking of you today, there are no other words.

alexis said...

I came from Hormonal Imbalances, and i just wanted to say that your story touched me. And you're right, the pain never leaves, no matter how many children you have after you lose one. You'll never forget, and you'll never stop loving him. And people who say that you should are crazy. Thank you for sharing Nolan's story. He is a beautiful boy.

Cecilia said...

Very true. Thinking of y'all this week!

Alise said...

Ashley & Chris,

I happened to get the link for your blog from a "nestie" friend yesterday. Since I got it all I've done is read your story, which has really touched me. I can totally understand how you still struggle with the "what ifs" of this new pregnancy, although I haven't had the same experiences as you have.. I do think that the lost of a baby/child at any point is hard! I still struggle with the m/c that I had at 5 wks 6 days because "what if" the next pregnancy doesn't work out(even though I never got to meet our little angel!). I just wanted to let you know that you aren't alone in your struggles and that I'm praying for you as you continue trying to move on.

Take Care! ((HUGS))

Alise said...
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Jill said...

Ashley,

As I read this, this is what it feels like for me. A year later, both you & I are about in the same time frame when things all happened. And our experiences were somewhat alike, and just by reading that it made me start to cry again, because i remember it all too well. Today and always I am thinking about you & your family & precious little Nolan. Bless you today & always. Big huge hugs to you. I wish I can print this entry and show it to all of my friends, so they can see, what I am still in. because none of them understand. They are like get over it move on, you have this baby to care about. I will ALWAYS ALWAYS remember and love Naomi and always think about her. Nothing will ever change that. Love you from a far. You are an amazing woman. I feel the same about the pregnancies even though I am expecting too now, I shy away from them, my friends and everything. It just hurts still. I want everything to be different.

Jessica said...

Ashley, this is so beautifully written. There is so much that people who haven't experienced loss just don't get....new pregnancy doesn't erase our beautiful babies gone too soon.

Thinking of you and Nolan *hugs*

Betty said...

(((hugs))) thinking of you and Nolan.

J said...

Hello, Ashley. I actually just found your blog through your siggy on thenest, but I think we're also on the same pre-e board as well. I just wanted to say that this post made me bawl and you did such an amazing job of writing out how I feel so, so often. Even though my son lived, I still struggle with SO many of those emotions but I just can't even bring myself to write them all out because it's more painful than just ignoring them. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you. I'm also pregnant again (almost 14 weeks) and I'm TERRIFIED! HUGE (((HUGS)))