Silence in the delivery room

One of the best things about living in a small town for me is the community I have made, the group of supporters and local tribe I call my own and am part of.  An excellent example of this is a gathering I attended two nights ago at my friend Steph’s house  (name changed.)  I could write pages on what this woman means to me and barely scratch the surface of all that she is, all she intends with her work and how valuable she is  to our community.  Steph bravely gathered a group of doula’s and birth workers in her home to discuss the identification of being a full spectrum doula and how it has implication on the work being done in our community.

One of the topics that came forward was the issue of silence in the delivery room when a baby is stillborn.  It is that silence that can palpably drive home that “moment” of realization of death.  The question was posed as to what is proper support to a mother and father in that moment, is it to fill the silence? Is this a time for touch and talk? To distract for the silence or is it better to remain quiet and in the background.

My response in the moment was visceral and nearly leaped off of my skin.  Do not fill that silence. That is my baby’s silence. That is my silence.  That is Matthew’s silence.  I did not get that moment of “one final push and silence” like so many others have, I was unconsicous for her birth and did not hold her for four days.  I did, however, still have that silent moment of holding her for the first time and bonding, mourning and beholding her.

And that silence rang.

Two days later the question is still on my mind and I am ruminating on the proper behaviour of a support person at that moment.  Each person is different and perhaps comfort, be it physical touch of your doula, compassionate condolences of your nurse or doctor would be a comfort.  For me, less is more.  In that moment I needed my support persons to show her body reverence. I needed to be encouraged to bond with her, dress her and love her, to tell me everything I was seeing was normal and to give me and my husband the proper respect and space.  I needed to be told to slow down, that this was hello and goodbye,  I needed photographs and keepsakes.  Would words help? Would any fill of that silence have helped? Should a doula have told me to grieve and been witness to my pain in some way?

I cannot say any of it would have helped.

I am also drawn to the idea of the fact that silence is ongoing in grief.  I heard that silence going home in the car with no car seat.  I heard that silence in her nursery.  I hear that silence today thinking of her space in my family.  That silence is her, I do not get to parent a boisterous and vibrant living child.  I parent her by honouring her and through the person she has changed me into.  That silence is her space …and therefore sacred.

Loss Mama’s, tribe, I would love to hear your thoughts so I can further this conversation.  I am drawn to K.C.’s nurse and the act she took getting into bed with her, that is support done right… but what about “that” moment of silence.  What is support done right?

 

Reactive Airway Disease: The Heart Edition

Lillian having Reactive Airway Disease (RAD) has had a profound and lasting impact on our little family.

Virus’ linger in our home.  Until her diagnosis one virus could easily lead to a month of illness.  You read that correctly, one virus takes a month to clear.  A month.  First it is the illness itself which lasts the standard 7-10 days and then the build of pneumonia or other infections which usually is approximately a week of us watching and praying it isn’t turning bacterial.  And finally the diagnosis and treatment that it is, which leads to another 10 days and follow up examinations until finally knowing she is well again.

Which is usually around the time when the next virus hits.

Yes.  It is exhausting.

With every virus comes coughing.  A lot of coughing.  Coughing until she vomits at times.  Coughing is always at night, nearly exclusively.  Coughing because there is too much humidity, too little, not enough incline on her bed, post nasal drip or goodness knows why else. Coughing because of coughing.  I have been blessed with a girl that would sleep through the night but her coughing has not permitted us to in 2 years and before then she wasn’t sleeping through the night.  I am lucky if I get to sleep 6 hours uninterrupted once or twice a month and I have a nearly 3 year old girl.

Guys, I am very tired.

The good news is that the new treatment we have her on is working. Her sleep is improving (when she is not ill) and now it is the hope we can strengthen her immune system so that we can get some nice breaks from the virus’ like we had last fall and last winter.

By far the hardest thing about RAD is the stress.  The stress of monitoring her breathing and having no idea how she will wake up and what is coming next.  We are on pins and needles constantly as her attacks before the medication always happened so fast. One minute she was ill and managing and the next she would be gasping for breath and we would be needing emergency help…now! All of this takes a significant toll on the psyche.  The stress of not knowing, of wondering what this virus could bring, of watching and wondering and constantly problem solving in an attempt to stave off the attack is beyond significant and consuming.

My friend K once said that when her son was sick she cleaned the house for when the paramedics would have to come.  That she has planned her son’s funeral in her head because she knows what it is like to bury a child and that reality is only a breath away. Thanks to RAD I couldn’t agree more.  In the last two years I have had 9-1 dialed into my phone as we race to emerge more than once.  I have slept on the floor of her room, on couch cushions for weeks at a time until my hips scream so I can hear her breathe and know she is okay.    I have cleaned my house for paramedics. I have thought of what if I can’t save her. That is the hardest part of this for me. I know what it is to bury a child and RAD makes me mentally spend time in that space whenever she is sick.  And that is truly exhausting and cruel. It is never just a cold, it is a cold with significant breathing issues.

RAD has taught me to hone my problem solving skills.  The internet joke is that a worried mother does better research than the F.B.I. well if that is the case, they can learn a thing or two from me.  I am a constant advocate for her, I am her voice in the medical system and I have learned exactly what I need to do to protect her from them and when to seek their refuge.  I am the eyes on her.  I am the one who knows every cough, every temperature, every reaction, I am the constant in this storm.  It has also humbled me, each and every time I take my girl home from a hospital all I can think of is the family that isn’t getting to leave, that isn’t as well and just how damned lucky we are for having this problem at all.

These last couple of month have been hard.  Her diagnosis brings comfort as I see the treatments beginning to work but the stress is evident. I am losing weight, rapidly. Both Matt and I have been more sick with virus’ than ever in our lives because we are in the trenches with her.   Our exhaustion at this point is palpable and I can only imagine hers.  That said, we are “all” together and the medicines are helping.  We remain hopeful that her doctor’s are right and that she simply outgrows this by the time she is 5 but we know we are in for the long haul.

 

 

Reactive Airway Disease: The Facts Edition

I have received numerous messages and emails regarding my stating that Lillian has Reactive Airway Disease, I did not mean to alarm, it honestly had not occurred to me that I had not blogged about it.  The reality is, this diagnosis has been hard fought, long and arduous to get and even still we are not sure what it all means yet.  So much so I do not even really know where to begin in explaining it all.

Lillian’s breathing has been an ever going concern for us.  From just shy of one year old she had croup and immediately thereafter pneumonia and so began the many bouts of croup or pneumonia that would plague her next two years.  With any virus it seemed her airway would react, she would cough and wheeze, often turning blue in the lips and requiring us to make many emergency room runs into Children’s Hospital. When we moved into our new home we were hoping the superior ventilation system, air filtration and air quality would improve her reactions, however, that hope was dashed as we rushed her in coughing and gasping not even a month after we moved in here.

In the last two years we have met with so many doctors attempting to figure out what is going on all the while trying new treatments, new remedies, new anything to get results.  The only pattern we had to go on was that it appeared to only happen when she had a virus.  Otherwise she seemed to be a happy and healthy kid but when she had a cold it never was just “a cold” it always morphed into more.   This was exactly the reason I pulled her from her first daycare and shut everything down just so we could get her a break from virus’ and get a handle on the situation.

After last summer’s break from all the virus’ and she was stronger I started attending a parent and tot literacy program in town a couple days a week.  It was a great outing and exposure to other children as well as virus’.  Her immune system and her breathing did wonderfully until December when we were slammed with our worst case of pneumonia to date.  It took weeks to recover from and we were barely standing again by Christmas.  Her immune system once again showed strength and fought off germs with no issue until April when once again, it rained down in misery.

I think I have blocked out the true play by play of what has happened since April, mostly because there has been so many twists and turns but what I do remember is it was my god daughter and nephew’s birthday party that it all began.  We spent the morning at their house for a small birthday gathering and I could tell Lillian wasn’t feeling well. She was very clingy and not quite herself.  We left after only being there an hour, knowing we needed to get her home to rest, thinking a virus must be lingering.  She slept the entire way home, through lunch and right through to mid afternoon.  This was very unlike her as she normally only needs a cat nap in the afternoon’s these days. When she woke, she woke with a bark.  The tell tale bark of croup rang through the house like the doorbell toll at “Christmas Vacation” when the grandparents arrive.  Getting to her I could see the edge of her lips were blue and she had loud and palpable stridor (wheezing on exhale at rest) both of which are hospital worthy events.  We got her up and checked her out.  She had pulling at her ribs as she had effort to breathe and was lethargic.  We bolted to the car, me still in my gardening clothes and Matt just barely up from a nap and sped like crazy into the Children’s Hospital as fast as we could.

They quickly diagnosed her with croup, treated her and sent us home.  Croup in the middle of the day? Croup usually hit us at night.  It all seemed strange.  A week later her cough continued and was very rattly in her chest. I took her to her Doctor who told me that he did not think it was pneumonia but advised me that if her cough remained and she spiked a high, unresponsive to medication fever to bring her back in three days and he would listen to her again.  Her fever reared its ugly head on Sunday afternoon and back into the same Dr we went for a pneumonia diagnosis again.  10 days of antibiotics and if you are following timeline we are end of April beginning of May straight sick now.

We complete the round of antibiotics after 10 days and her cough isn’t…great.  Still sounds like something is in there.  On Mother’s Day we get up and her fever is high and raging again.  The antibiotics have run their course and her cough was concerning.  At this point we are convinced that perhaps the pneumonia treatment did not work and of course, being a Sunday the only place to receive treatment and get an xray to finally, once and for all, end this month of insanity is Children’s hospital.  We make the hard call to go back in, once more, to see if we can finally get some answers.

I think at this point they were beginning to realize we need some sort of frequent flier card because they put us right with a team of Dr’s that set to figuring out just what was going on with our girl’s lungs.  They xray her again, pulled all past xrays and cross compared them and did a full examination and health history.  Finally, after hours waiting, testing we were given the diagnosis of Reactive Airway Disease. Happy Mother’s Day!

Now if you are me you black out a little when they say those horrid words because it sounds positively terrifying.   Reactive Airway Disorder is not as scary as it sounds, at least not to me, as it finally all makes sense.  RAD is the diagnosis given to children when they are too small to be diagnosed with asthma.  2/3rd of kids with RAD out grow it by age 5 and 1/3 carry on to have an asthma diagnosis.  Her airway is …reactive.  It narrows to irritates and triggers.  Mucus is created in her airways and because of it narrowing due to triggers she cannot cough it out, causing reoccurring and often misdiagnosed cases of pneumonia as well as greater cases of croup, wheezing and breathing “events.”  In our review of her health to date we have discovered that she was treated for pneumonia in the past when she did not have it simply because it “sounded” like pneumonia, which RAD often does.  RAD is treated with a daily steroid puffer as well as a rescue inhaler for times when symptoms become uncontrolled.  So far Lillian’s triggers include virus’, sulphites and dust (dust like, walking through a dry open farmers field and having dirt fly in your face). Dust is why we cannot have our windows open in our house, we live near a farmer’s field.   Her coughing has reduced substantially since going on the steroid puffer and although currently we are in the midst of an attack (seriously, I just sat back down after administering her rescue inhaler as she just coughed until she vomited) her health has been more stable.  I am so grateful for this diagnosis for the fact it allows us to take the best care of her possible.

I am scared about the long term.  Will she have an asthma diagnosis and what will that look like?  Will she require a rescue inhaler by the time she goes to school? How do I keep her safe? How to teach all the people in her life to help us watch for warning signs? What if it gets worse and she can’t exercise or play without attacks? These are all things we think of each and every day.  Not to mention all the emotional side of being a loss parent with a child with a breathing condition that oh yah, is life threatening.

But that, that is an entry for another day.

 

 

Summer Projects: Both of us taking one for the team

We did not have many summer projects in mind for this year.  The most pressing was the driveway.  We have a time window as stipulated in our building contract in which our driveway must be completed.  Included in the price of the house was a standard asphalt driveway.  If you chose to have something else done instead then a rebate cheque for the amount of the asphalt will be paid to you in at the time of  the driveway’s completion.  Fairly straight forward, right?

Except this damn driveway was nearly the undoing of us.

Yes.  We “survived” Ava but this driveway nearly took us apart at our seams.  A classic difference in opinion and in case anyone hasn’t met my husband, he can kinda be a little, tiny, eensie-weensie bit stubborn. As in you would be better off trying to herd a hundred cats into water than try and change his mind.  Ever.

It all started with the deck last winter.

We knew we wanted to complete the deck project this year.  The driveway aside, the deck is what WE wanted.  Or rather, completion of the outside area including the steps coming down from the sliding glass window off of the dining area.  Last summer Matt build stairs to allow us to get in out and of the house and into the yard but we knew this year we wanted to finish the area, make the  yard full accessible and be able to eat outside in a nice finished space.

Over the winter I had been pintrest-ing and pondering on the idea of a stone patio instead a of a deck.  We would require 4 steps down onto the patio, however, I thought it would be something different.  Allow for a different look than those homes around ours and I had always loved our stone patio on Pol Court.

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Hello Pol, we meet again

I got in touch with a friend we grew up with, he now owns his own stone business and comes very highly recommended.  Back when the snow was still on the ground I had him come out and give us a quote for a 14 foot stone patio with matching stone steps out of the house and into the yard.  The design was perfect but the price was …not.

In fact it was more than double our highest number we were willing to pay for the patio.  I nearly vomited.  What I did not know is that while he was here, Matt had chatted to him about the driveway as well.  At this time Matt was furiously researching driveway pricing for the aforementioned deadline we had over our heads. The biggest problem of which was we were on entirely two different pages.  I would have rather doubled the back yard budget and had the builder install asphalt and call it a day.  Matthew, meanwhile, was preoccupied with all the neighbors having concrete driveways and thinking we were going to be the “poor” people on the street.  He wanted to quadruple the drive budget and postpone the back yard.

Just a slight difference of opinion.

Both of our opinions were based on usage.  I do not play with Lillian on the driveway.  I drive over it, to get to the garage, to take her inside or out into the back yard.  We spend 80 percent of our home time outside in the summer, the yard is worth the investment for me.  Matthew meanwhile doesn’t have that same focus at all. His focus is on home value and appearance, on the long term investment of what solution we have for the drive way.

When he initially approached me with quotes for a concrete drive and proposed cancelling the back yard I was not buying in, at all.  I do not like concrete driveways and the idea of spending that large of a sum of money on a driveway is not my cup of tea.  And I am being polite.  I may have laughed hard and asked him if he had fallen down and hit his head.  I flat out refused to consider concrete and that is when he spoke with our friend about doing paving stones instead.

Paving stone is known as being the highest maintenance of the driveway options.  Simply because of the sand you have to spread in the cracks every couple of years or the potential of re-laying sections of settled stone.  Matthew never wanted pavers.  He was adamant against it.  I figured that would mean that we would be locked in a concrete vs asphalt battle of the ages, I honestly thought we were going to miss our window if we could not agree and we would then be “those” neighbours with a gravel driveway for the next 15 years.

Well sure enough a week later we had a reasonable quote for paving stones in hand.  I then called a neighbor, the same one that helped us with our fences, and had a reasonable quote for a deck in hand. We sat down for dinner that night to figure it out, both of us staring the other down, wondering where a compromise could be made. Five options, stone patio, deck, concrete drive, pavers or asphalt and we did not have an agreement on a single one of them as being the best for our home.  It came down to us both taking one for the team and getting paving stones on the driveway and a deck on the back instead of a patio.

In true “us” fashion, we had given an entire summer of availability to our two contractors to complete the work.  And they both began last Tuesday and finished this Monday.  For the last week our house has been chaos outside with masonry dust, saw dust and workers out of every window. A fantastic problem to have, as look at the results!

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From the yard
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A proper welcome
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From the road
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She might be naked from the waist down

 

The deck is so large we can have a 6 person set, the bbq and bistro set all without feeling cramped.  And the driveway has exceeded both of our expectations.  I highly recommend Picture It Landscape Design and Patrick for the work he did on the driveway.  Ian from Thomas Builds in St Thomas when above and beyond on the deck and in the end we all came out victorious.

 

Welcome!

Welcome to the redesigned Ava’s Tree!

Isn’t it pretty?

I am gleeful to finally launch and show off the incredible work that Derek Silva and his partner have done on my blog.  I was approached by Derek, who happens to be a long time friend of mine, over a year ago offering assistance with my website should I ever require it. It wasn’t until I finished the book and got myself organized that I was ready to go through the process of creatively constructing everything I wanted this space to be.

And here it is!

Ava’s story is put together concisely at the top. As with most loss blogs our story is my most popular page and it is the most important as well. Our stories connect us, they make us not feel as isolated and they knit our tribe together.  You will also see two education programs I have created to teach families of loss how to “navigate pregnancy after loss” as well as health professionals regarding supporting families during their loss journey. I regularly teach these classes and you are welcomed to contact me through the tab at the top to find out more.   There is a tab for the Elgin Community Loss group in St. Thomas and I will continue to post updates both to my blog and to that page for anyone that requires it.  I know there are several loss families that connect through my blog to the community group and that space will always remain for you.

There are a few hiccups and technical wrinkles we are ironing out so hang in there with us as we do so.  And by “we” I mean me texting Derek incessantly and promising to bake him brownies or a pie as payment, again.

Welcome! Pull up a chair, get a glass of wine, make yourself a home and enjoy a little bit of Ava’s Tree.

Confessions

  • It never ceases to amaze me that as a loss family we do not get a free pass on cruddy things happening in our lives.  I really think loss families should have a sort of “get out of jail free” card, a “you walk through life with a hole in your soul, that is enough” card.  How many times have you heard of catastrophic things happening repeatedly to one family like Joe Biden and thought how do they muster? How do they cope with such cruelty yet others walk so unburdened?
  • Summer is  here and it is a welcome reprieve from coats and boots and inside time.  I wish we could open the windows more, however, Lillian has been diagnosed with a Reactive Airway so unfortunately it will be a closed windows summer.
  • I may have eaten more than my fair share of Lillian’s potty training M and M’s this morning.
  • I have spent a lot of time at Ava’s Tree this  month.  Something about her tree in the summer with the splash pad is such a joy, all the kids running around and Lillian so enjoying her sister’s space.
  • The book is coming out very soon!  I am filled with excitement and a fair share of fear about it being all completed.
  • Matthew’s work schedule looks just as busy as always this August and September. Each year is a marathon from August to October and by then I will have a three year old! Three terrific and satiating years with my Lillian, how I adore her.
  • I think we may have to get Simon a kitty psychiatrist if we have any more contractors come and do work on the house.  The deck and driveway are both going in this week and he is wrung.  I found him this morning sitting in the Lillian’s bathtub facing the wall which is always a troubling sign with Simon.  Shortly after bringing Simon into my life, when he was one year old, I moved into a bachelor apartment.  There was no space to get away from one another so whenever he was mad he would go into the only other room my apartment had; the bathroom.  He would sit in the tub and stare at the wall and I would know he was not a happy cat.  To this day it is his tell, his sign, his way of communicating that he is fed up.  As far as I figure it has to be the chaos of the contractors and him seeking peace.  It will only be a couple more days but by then he may be setting up shop in the tub.
  • Changing how I talk to Lillian about Charlie has completely changed her grief in such a healthy way. She no longer is asking where he is constantly and instead talking about him and missing him with us.
  • We thought we would want another dog right away but we don’t.  Right now we are enjoying the freedom of no dog although missing that presence daily.

So then we dropped the ball…

There isn’t a day that goes by where we aren’t missing this guy.

 

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Grief of Charlie is different from Ava grief.  It is a whole different type of grief all together. I did not as intensely mourn Charlie as I did Ava but I still miss that little Beagle-butt so much my chest aches at some point in the day.  By far the worst of it has come from Lillian.

Over the last month in particular Lillian will repeatedly ask,

“Where’s Chawlie?”

To which I respond, “in heaven.”

And usually to my horror and body screaming sensation she then says, “I go to heaven and see Charlie! I go! I go!”

We talk about Charlie and talk about heaven and what he does there.  We talk about it all but only today nearly 3 months after losing him did it occur to me that I was getting it all so damned wrong.

Lillian isn’t saying she wants to go to heaven and be with Charlie. Lillian isn’t wondering where he went thinking that he is going to return, she understands that Charlie is gone.  Her language skills are not developed enough to say what she is really feeling which is that she misses Charlie. She wants to talk about Charlie because she misses him and the only context I have given her to talk about him is through his death.

Seriously! How could I be so blind?

So today while we were washing “cars” I say to her,

 

 

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“You know what?”

“What, Mama?”

“I miss how Charlie’s floppy ears.  Do you remember Charlie’s floppy ears?”

And her whole face lit up.  She dropped her cloth and looked at me,

“I miss Chawlie’s licking his nose” and she smiled and giggled pointing to her own.

“I miss Charlie sniffing!” I responded and I tried to sniff her.

We probably went back and forth for 5 whole mins of things that we miss.  And all of the sudden she was distracted and off she fluttered to something else.  It was that simple.  I cannot believe with all that I know about grief I became so mired in the idea that she couldn’t understand death that I forgot that she can miss happily.  And that missing is mourning and remembering is good for her.  Ava didn’t get a life outside of my body so I don’t have many happy memories with her, the focus is on her death…

I forgot the life is usually what you miss when you lose.

So we dropped the ball.  Dropped it good.  That said, we are picking up and trying again.

 

 

Love you Beags.

 

 

 

We need to let this go

(Not a grief post.)

Not very often. however, occasionally I find myself completely riled up about an issue or article online.  Lately there have more than the usual fair share of things that have gotten me ticked off, ranting, making gross proclamations and debating that we move far away into the woods where I can block off the idiotic.

Then this morning, a dear friend posted this article to Facebook and seemed to sum up all of my thoughts of the last two weeks into a nice, neat package.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helene-tragos-stelian/women-without-children_b_7300970.html?ir=Canada+Living

There are a few things this article has just so very right.  The idea that having children is a choice is false.  It is not a choice, we are tricked, hoodwinked and given false power in the notion of choice in fertility.  It is in our vernacular,we “choose” to stop birth control or “choose” to be sexually active but neither of those things guarantee a healthy, living baby.  It is impossible to know the story of someone’s fertility and by questioning it a woman could be thrown head first, traumatized, having to justify her “choice” for your amusement.

Is it amusement or rather is it ownership?

Growing up, getting an education, finding a spouse, getting married and having babies, what is it about that timeline that we find “normal” and “comforting?” Is it because that is what our puritan heritage has designed as an acceptable way to live a life? Or is it further meddling into the notion of owning a woman’s fertility, as a family, as a village and as a society. The ultimate example of control over sexuality is the D family (I will not put their name on my blog, family from Arkansas, 19 children and a big reality tv show) that recently had years of molestation suffered within their family come to light.  This blog is not about about them and the horrid heartbreak and trauma the victims endure to this day but rather about the notion of control exercised over female sexuality within their family.  Courtship rules that control physical contact, a strict definition of modest attire, the father permission to kiss even at the wedding (oh yes! Her father stood up at the front and gave his permission that they could finally kiss at the wedding) and an immediate expectation for offspring.  Both girls married this year were pregnant that first month of marriage and to be honest, part of me feared for them if they were not pregnant.   The expectation to procreate in that family is so high that emotional harassment and dare I say abuse would surely be to follow.

Let me not mince words, that is control.  That is ownership over sexuality.

In Ontario there is a protest occurring in our public high schools over dress code.  Young women are being sent home for “inappropriate” attire including tank tops and ripped jeans.  I would have experienced the same outcome when I went to school but there seems to be an ongoing conversation that is coming from this issue that is so different than it was at my time in school.   The notion of control over one’s sexuality is dominating headlines.   Which carries greater weight, a girl’s right to an education without interruption (being sent home to change or even expulsion) or societies requirement that she dress “appropriately.”  Why do we need to control our girls into “appropriate” sexual behaviour, why can we not teach principles of confidence, self assurance and permit her to dress however she likes.  Is it because she is a child? It is law in Ontario that women can go topless and has been for nearly a decade.  I cannot remember a time I ever saw a women go topless, ever, in Ontario.  Ever.  At the time there were news headlines screaming that men would not be able to “control” themselves if women went topless.  Are we assuming the same of teenage boys if a girl in his class wears a tank top?  Why are we demeaning boys in that way?  Why can’t our boys be taught appropriate sexual behaviour and not just the girls?

We need to stop placing ownership on women’s fertility and sexuality.  My parents are no greater grandparents because they have 6 grandchildren than if they had 1. Why do we think they are? My daughter is not a sexual object and I do not need to dress her from her toes to her nose to protect her from being one.  That tells her that others have the power over sexuality.  That is false.  I will teach her she has power and control over her own body.  Her choices and her sexuality have no barring on my deemed successes or failures in this life.  We need to let this go, we need to honour and forgive and allow females to live their lives for themselves with fear of retribution or abuse.  We need to let this go, to have true equality, to raise healthy, assured, confident girls into stronger and taller women.  We need to let this go, for women who feel pressure to produce children to live up to expectations, for those that can’t, those that wish they could, those that just aren’t.  Sexuality is a facet of our whole selves and to reduced women to one part of themselves in order to make sense who they are is just damn wrong. And it is time for this to change.

 

Vesta: Part of our babies home

Each month the grief group I co-facilitate meets at Vesta Parenting in St Thomas.  Elgin Community Loss was created by one of the owners of Vesta Shawn, my friend Susan* and I.

I met Shawn the day I went into Vesta to register for birth classes. Vesta is a retail store and community that has classes for parents and supports for families.  Built on the philosophy of green living and tell-it-like-it-is Vesta instantly appealed with Ava for it’s down to earth and natural approach to child birth and rearing.  I was able to attend 3 birth classes with Ava there before her death and it was Shawn who would become one of the first people we told of Ava’s loss as Matt called to tell her we would not be attending birth classes when I just woke from the coma.

With Ava died my dream at Vesta.  The dream of walking around with a beautiful babe on my arm, discussing diaper ointments with my new Mama friends, dreams of amber necklaces for teething and all natural wooden teething toys.  I mourned the loss of who I was, who I wanted to be and my new friends I found at Vesta.  I was kicked out of the club and I mourned it heavily.

Several months after she died I received this message from Shawn,

“There are no words Melissa.  I am here.  I will never forget her.”

And I crumbled to the ground.

I thought I had lost Shawn as a collateral loss to Ava.  Life had stolen everything from me and I was beginning to accept that meant nearly all I held near and dear and yet here she was saying just the right things.  Our friendship grew as she supported me with Lillian and she was a cornerstone for me in my postpartum period.  Shawn came to my house the day I brought Lillian home to ease my fears of breastfeeding, she held my hand as I cried and grieved.  And it was her suggestion that we together create Elgin Community Loss.

We have enjoyed 2 years to the month at Vesta with our Loss group and it was 5 years since I strolled in for the first time with Ava in my belly when it was announced that Vesta would be moving.  An excellent opportunity for growth and possibility, I knew instantly that Shawn and her partner were making the right decision.  It wasn’t until the  moving day sales and talk of leaving the old location behind did it occur to me … that it was Ava’s place too.

Our last meeting at the old location I had a lump in my throat the entire time.  Looking around I was transported to lying on the floor with Matt, his hands on my belly watching videos and talking.  To breastfeeding support with Shawn, the only Mom’s groups I was able to attend without losing my mind and to the countless hours spent with my loss Mama friends.  It felt like I was leaving a piece of Ava behind, a piece of my time with her.  And it made me sad.

At the end of the meeting I asked the everyone to join me in the basement, dark and dingy the basement was used for storage and had thick posts perfect for what I had in mind.  I took out Matt’s carving knife and set to work…

As I carved her A into the beam, I thought of all those times we spent there and how she would forever be part of this space now. I then offered that anyone else could carve an initial if they wanted… 
H and T 

M and A 

There were others as well, if I could find them on my computer.  T and many more.  Babies missed and forever part of that place. We are glad to move with Vesta, glad to always have a home there and sincerely grateful that we can include such a healing space as part of our children’s legacy’s.  

*Name changed

It is all in a name

I feel as if I am saying Ava’s name at every turn lately.

How normal is that?  Getting to say her name just like she is here,

“Ava, don’t forget your knapsack!”

“Ava! Pick up your dolls please.”

Except I am not saying her name to her, I am saying it to my publisher and in lectures. I am saying it in my grief group and in job interviews as I talk about the book or my website.

It is nice to say her name, it brings her closer yet it is always bittersweet.

It got me thinking of how we chose her name and all the meanings it has.

When we were pregnant with Ava we were torn on girl names.  Matthew and I have the hardest time picking girls names.  I could name a soccer team of boys.  First and middle names, I could name them all.  Girls prove to be the biggest difficulty for a whole host of reasons.  Our last name ends with an “eee” sound and that naturally eliminates all first names ending with that sound.  If we pair those sounds together it just doesn’t work.  And most girls names end in an vowel “ee” sound.  As well, Matthew and I tend to go more traditional in our name choices but again, our last name is long as are traditional names.  Many times we have joked that we could never use a name as she would not be able to spell it until grade 6.

Out of exasperation and having only one name we could somewhat agree on I asked my brother on the day of our baby shower, a mere 3 days before her death what he would name a girl if he had one. My brother is a swat officer, he is big and tough and all the things a big brother is including being a major pain in the butt.   He answered me quickly, as if it was all he could think about,

“Ava. If I had a little girl I would want to name her Ava. I love the name.  Simple, classic. feminine.”

Ava.  I liked it, instantly. And I set it aside wondering if it would suit her.

Fast forward a week later and I finally was able to see her after waking from the coma.   I looked down and saw her face and knew the name we could somewhat agree on wasn’t for her.  I did not know what to do and instantly felt at odds, do we name her? What could we name her? It would be several more days before I summoned the courage to look at the photos that my father took while I was in the coma.  My entire family had held and loved her while I was asleep and my father documented everything.  My brother had just returned to his home, 6 hours away when he received the news of my illness and Ava’s death.  He raced back trying to get here in time to see me before I went in for surgery but he just missed me.  He was there to hold Ava and love her with us. Going through the photos of her with my family, one picture stopped me and caught my breath.  It was my brother, lovingly cradling Ava in his big arms.  His entire posture was pained and controlled…

And I knew…

She was his.  She is Ava.

Elizabeth was an easily chosen middle name.  It is my Grandmother’s name and several of my close friends name. One friend in particular was a rock for and proved to be even more so on our grief journey.

It just fit, our Ava Elizabeth.