Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just how can you help a bereaved parent?

Something came to mind very recently when I was reading (as I do) various posts from grieving parents. It prompted me to start making notes in here of how to "help" (I really don't know how comfortable I am with that term yet... but that's for another blog post) bereaved parents who are trying to continue their lives without their baby/ies.

This pertains more to the early days. The early months too. I hope to build on this post with others that follow suit, in order that I might create a bit of a helpers'/supporters' guide - and I may very well be pre-empting the work I am about to undertake when I do the grief counselling which is merely days away, but anyway, here goes today's thoughts:

• Don't ask.... please just do
I said "No, that's okay", "You don't have to", "Nothing, but thanks for asking", "I don't need anything" very often. I really meant, "Please just do it. Show that you care by just turning up. Bring us nourishing food. Call me often, but not for very long. Sit with me in my stillness. Help me catalogue in my mind, now, while they are fresh, all the things I am scared I will forget."
I would imagine it's very rare to receive a "Yes, please, I want your help" from a grieving parent who's been asked if they want any. Before yesterday/last week (when their child died), they were capable, strong, independent and not requiring any special attention or kid-gloves. They were preparing for their child's arrival (or their child's arrival home one day, if their baby was treading the treacherous NICU/SCN path). There was never any intention or assumption that they would need your support, shoulder, meals, attention. While they are now integrating the gravity of their newfound situation, requesting help (and even accepting it) is not something that's going to be at the front of their minds.
Think of yourself as the unseen waiter/waitress during this time. Serve, selflessly, and just know you are helping immeasurably. It might seem like a bottomless pit you are throwing your energy into, but keep remembering to put their circumstances into perspective. Hopefully, this will keep you buoyant with your task and be prepared - it could be a long one.
Obviously, it's important not to be too overbearing with this, so a gentle manner would also be wise - newly bereaved parents are especially raw in their grief and for a time, everything will probably be feeling like it is moving way too fast. Things feel louder, crowds seem much thicker. It may be very difficult to go out for some time.
If you are looking to support someone - whether they are a close friend or just a loose acquaintance but someone you feel compelled to reach out to - please remember to slow your pace, be gentle, don't push yourself on them. But do check in. Often. Little visits, very short calls. Be gentle but persistent, I cannot stress this enough.

If you are uncertain what to say, say nothing original.gif
Your task is really, though probably very daunting to you, quite straightforward. Just be there. Offer some open questions if you feel safe enough to ask them. But remember, you are that parent's safe place to talk first and foremost. It would be most helpful to shelve any of your own personal needs and save your vetting of these for another time (with another audience) - in other words, please don't burden your grieving friend with your troubles at this time. It will become apparent to both of you when the time is right to allow some more normal give-take back into your conversations.

• Don't apologise for your tears
That parent will know why they are falling and those tears will be appreciated. But do stop short of making their pain yours (if that makes sense!). Remember, you can debrief after the call/visit with somebody other than the grieving parent/s. It is not their place to counsel you (nor, actually, yours to necessarily "counsel" them either).

• Beware of offering advice
It is possibly something you are keen to do and feel an urgent need (to rush in and say words that are designed to comfort). But please note that the death of a baby is an entirely different situation to that of an adult, a friend, even a child. It is a very specific grief and one which may take careful, long months and even years of working through.
A parent in this position very quickly learns the painful lesson of recognising that not all in their acquaintance are going to be there for the long haul. Those who wrap up their experience in neat "word packages" - 'it was nature's way', 'it's for the best, s/he was very sick', 'what if s/he had been older when s/he died, it's better it happened now' and so forth - are very noticeably the ones who will steadily drop away from the supportive circle of loved ones who are intent on seeing these parents through the toughest trial of their lives.

And here endeth the first instalment. I hope it helps somebody. I can't help feeling a little like I've told people how to suck eggs... but I just have to trust this is now "out there" for whomever (even just one of you!) needs to read it today.

What 45ºC looks like

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Things you wish your husband wouldn't just come and say without warning

I am beyond speech about this. So... I guess, a mega reader warning if you are not up for hearing about a child tragedy. Here is the link to the news story. Please don't click if you don't want to read this news.

News that actually, for me right here and now, dwarfs anything else I have ever heard. I feel absolutely ill, having just found out about this unthinkable case.

The pain that is...

... does not just start and end with merely existing through this dry, hot, hot heat (overnight low last night was 33ºC, we're in our third day - is it third? I don't know, for I am by now delirious from heat exhaustion... or is that just toddler exhaustion in the heat?) of scorching temps. Yesterday was 42.9ºC. Today was 43.7ºC.

But the pain doesn't stop there. Oh-hooooooh no. It is then getting an eyelash stuck in your eye.

Your eyeball, not even moist enough to relinquish its grip on said eyelash even when you poke a ring finger pad in to pick it up, remains uncompliant. And gets redder by the second. No amount of lid twirling or squinting will make even one pinprick's worth of extra liquid.

And then add to that the fact that you remember, while sliding that big ole finger around, that you've totally forgotten to rinse your hands after having your fingers in vinegar-laden sushi rice.


OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW that stings like a bass turd.

Good luck sleeping, all you Melbournians.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Or so help me...

Just cannot "do" heat. Especially not this early in the year.

I remember 40º days in Melbourne last March, not so much January. We used to have hot days like this around Christmas and in our school holidays on family camping trips... urrrrrrrgh, the kind of heat that was so hot that you got goosebumps and the chills when you brushed against the tent canvas... but in recent years, I've noticed a distinct pushing back of the 'serious hot' days like we're having this week.

Boo hiss. Because I'll bet that doesn't mean we won't still be getting them in a month or even two months' time.

And, as I am seriously at the end of my rope single-handedly looking after three little munchkins, two of whom don't have English as their first language and are quite... shall we say.... a lot more boisterous than what I'm used to with the LGBB, I'm fresh out of niceties. So all you "Oh I love the heat" people: BITE ME! (but just for today. Thanks ever so.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big Love

A very big thank you for the tremendous response I've received so far. The emails I have had from some of you are just so thought-provoking. The comments equally as important and gratefully received. I will reply to emails, please give me a bit of time (perhaps just a week?) to do this, as it's not something I can send a pithy "thanks!" in response to. You've all been so incredibly bold and honest, I am in awe!

I am working hard today with family matters - my brother's family is staying here this week, my SIL has popped down to Tassie for a couple of well-deserved rest days with a dear friend of hers who she hasn't seen in such a long time, Steve has gone back to work and my brother went and picked up a very nasty vomiting, gastric bug (which he appears to lovingly have seemed to pass on to at least one of his girls so far) and so I've been both hands on deck all day.... a fun but challenging task when one immediately becomes three voracious little minds up for a bit of mischief! - and in the back of my mind, I have as always been carrying my book.

Now, it seems, I am formulating a train of thought. I am holding on to that tiny whisper-thin thread that my unconscious seems to have grasped and I am just hoping, waiting, that I can spin it consciously into the gold that is so obviously required in this book.

You have to all know that simply by sticking it out and reading this blog as you do, you too as individuals are extremely important to my future work. I am humbled, honoured to do it, and also greatly determined to meet my life's challenge.

Tired But Increasingly Curious

It's DONE!

I did it. And I now have a place in the Bonnie Babes grief counselling course *gulp* in less than two weeks.

You may recall that the thought occurred to me to do this about six months ago. And then this and this sort of got in the way. It just wasn't the right time.

When I found out they were doing their next course in February, I hmmm'ed and hawwww'ed and procrastinated and thought more of committing to it. It was before Christmas and I didn't feel like putting my mind to any emotionally draining work, not more than I had to, anyway.

But I got signed up, I paid and ... I'm going! Can't say it's going to be a blast. But I am very keen to add this particular tool to my bag of healing tricks.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Calling all opinions

"I searched other people’s babies for any sign of my own. Really looked at them, tried to look right into them to get a connection, any connection, but there was none. No one else’s baby was my baby and nobody, not even another baby of my own, could ever have filled the indescribable void. I didn’t want anyone else. I wanted Ella. And I knew she was gone. So nothing else seemed important. Not my physical comfort, not my relations with others. Not my life. I felt somewhat invincible at this time.
It's little wonder that suicide crossed my mind often in the first three months after losing her. I don't know just how to convey the depths of my despair. Material possessions were ridiculous to me, relationships with others.... well, for the most part I honestly thought they'd be relieved if I wasn't here anymore - no more awkward silences, no more having to be mindfully careful about what they said or complained about in their own lives when talking with me - and the thought that I had to live out my days (presumably decades of it still to come) with Ellanor not sharing our lives just seemed too impossible for me to bear thinking about.
I would literally sit on the edge of my bed and think about how long I had to be (wait) here now without her. There was no other baby in sight. I had no children here to live "for", I felt absolutely trapped. And I wasn't terrified of the thought of leaving. Retrospectively, that's the part that shocks me the most."

I have some questions for you, and you lurkers to this blog too - obviously, for the purpose of me getting the book to its latest "helpful for any and all readers" stage, it would brilliant if you could share your responses (either in comments or send an email via my profile), but it's good enough for me if the following questions simply get you thinking further, even if you don't let on... it's kind of all the same :) and ultimately, what my book is all about. Getting people thinking.

What does this paragraph say to you?
What comes up for you, reading it? Are you uncomfortable, do you consider your own mortality, are you surprised someone could want to end their life because they've lost a son/daughter they hardly knew?
Are you uncomfortable that someone could look at your baby that way and imagine their own, deceased baby? How is that for you?
Do you feel exposed/unprotected/confronted?
If you have lost a child, does it ring true for you? Could it have more added to it?

In my ongoing quest to make this book "universal", I would love to hear from you - I can go further and say more, go deeper, and I can certainly weed sections like this and say less. I'd appreiate the feedback, particularly from those of you who I know read and have lost a baby.

So, my thanks to you in advance, if you're up for sharing your opinion.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Not too sure if anyone can tell...

...but we're guessing it's pretty obvious who's enjoying having her Japanese cousins come to stay for two weeks with us.

My brother's a dab hand at home movie editing, as I've mentioned before, and so it was quite normal for the LGBB to see her family even though they visit only every other year and live something like 10,000 km's away. She watches them all the time on telly and, well, if it's on the telly then of course it's real! *cough*

We have thoroughly enjoyed observing our little girl lap up the attention and entertainment value of two other pairs of adorable tiny feet in the house this week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chocks aweigh!

Well, my goodness. This time last week, I was emailing a reply to the Guardian Friend who had contacted me about something she'd read (and made the statement that my book was something that is obviously in need "out there", god how I love when people have faith in it on the days when I don't). I told her in not so many words that it was "all well and good for me to keep writing this thing, but honestly..... how to market it? HOW?"

It was almost as if I'd thrown the proverbial ball up and tossed it in to the Ether. A sort of "show me how!" exercise.

Since then, I have had one person contact me out of the blue (a total stranger) - someone who runs one of the leading websites on a topic close to my heart, and in turn, in line with the subject matter in my book - and after a few emails back and forth with requests for reciprocal website linking, she also said how honoured she would be to promote such a vital personal journey in book form on her site. Woah! That was humbling enough.

And if that wasn't all ace enough for this week, when I turned up last night at the gym for a refocus one-on-one sesh with the new manager there, we got to chatting and it turns out... she seems to be right into network marketing, as well as mental health, and is adamant that "when you're ready, I'll get onto my contact at the local paper so they can run a story on you. So get ready and let me know."

I'm like... oh... wowie wow. I didn't have to ask, I didn't have to beg. I didn't have to sell myself (yet), I didn't have to get rejected. They're starting to come to me.

A woman who read the book, at my request (she's the mother of a very old, very trusted girlfriend of mine and she has years of grief counselling, creative writing and teaching experience up her savvy little sleeve), phoned me last week too and asked to meet up with me. Her message went something like, "I've just finished reading your amaaazing manuscript and, my goodness... lots and lots of tears, what a read. It's a gift to us all...." and after that I couldn't hear, I don't think, because my heart was beating too loudly in my ears. It was the hugest acknowledgement yet. This person owes me nothing, not like a dutiful friend might not want to give it to me straight, and her opinion means a tremendous amount. I am expecting some constructive critique coming my way when we meet up over the next fortnight or so to discuss it in person. Can't wait for that one!

Methinks me better hold onto me hat this year. I've nearly finished the book in its first draft form.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The pit

Sandpit, that is!

When we demolished the old kitchen here, we kept the sink. My plan was to use it for a sandpit for the LGBB. The frame for it could be built later.

We got stuck into renovations and the sink got busy getting dirty out in the weather for over four months in the driveway down the side. But then, driving one day through a suburb near here on hard rubbish week, I saw this metal frame from an old broken glass tabletop coffee table. I convinced Steve to drive back and collect it in his car, before anyone else had the bright idea to use it as a kitchen sink-turned-sandpit stand and nab it for themselves. Hmmm, would our sink fit though?

It did. It is perfect. It's become like a little work bench now for Lol and the trough-sized kitchen sink with its massive dish drainer section are brilliant for her to while away the ... well, I was going to say hours but who am I kidding? She's a changeable toddler. It's minutes at the moment, people. Sometimes minutes and minutes that all join together into a blissful 20 minute distraction that's non-tv-oriented. But that's very rare for the LGBB at this point in time.

Mostly at this stage, it's just minutes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Heading into the thick of the month

I originally made the below post here. You can see it and photos of our pond, which we also had to say goodbye to when we left the old place 12 months ago yesterday, on my old blog.

This is where I do my best...
November 16, 2005

Laughing and enjoying being alive.
Talking on the phone (even though many people have asked if I'm running a bath or in the toilet.....).

This is the pond we made last year for Ella, in place of having a grave site in a cemetary as was our choice, and where all our pregnant fish are (ok, so it's only two of them but that counts as ALL of them to someone ttc). For every brick we painstakingly laid (there is a double brick surround under the pavers and rendering), for every paver we laid, every brush stroke of paint.... we thought of her. We knew we couldn't stop because it symbolised all the missed birthdays, Christmases, school concerts, friends over to play. Just all of it. And it was tough, really tough. I had my fifth miscarriage during that time (my first pregnancy since losing her) so there are a lot of blood, sweat and tears - all quite literally - in this monument to her. We started in May 2004 and it was complete when the shade sail went up in September the same year.

God knows how we'll ever leave this place now. It would be pretty hard to leave this behind. It brings us so much joy and has become the centrepiece of the house - we can view it from the kitchen/living area so it's ever-present.

We love it.

Reading it again gave rise to a moment shared with me by one of my dearest and oldest friends, who came to visit and offered me the following deeply enriching (to me, at the time, still childless) observation. I have written this for the book but want to share it here as well, capturing a time when I held on to the hope of meeting more of the family I would create with Steve - one day... maybe - while I would take myself out at night and stare up at the stars as I sat by the pond. I felt so much closer to Ella out there and so far, here at the new place, we haven't created anything anywhere near as magical. Not yet. It'll come, I hope.

When we first started the water pump on the cherub, we had the strong desire to keep the trickle very slow. So that only a very subtle water flow could be heard. By the following spring in 2005, having cleaned the pond and the pump after a stagnant winter, the fountain burst into life and really powered into the water. It was a stark contrast to our initial desire to set the peaceful and gentle pace of the water over the fountain, that we could now bear the more forceful pressure of the sound of water hitting water. It was vibrant, alive, very present and commanding of us to peer into the water, it invited closer inspection, it drew us in far more loudly than in the previous year.
A dear friend made the poignant observation to me that at this stage, Ella too would have been up to more, an inquisitive toddler, full of life and energy, getting into things, commanding attention and generally on the go all the time. I had never looked on it that way before and the instant the words left her lips, I adored the symmetry of the metaphor she was suggesting. It gave our little water monument creation an even greater, lasting depth. The cherub itself I had looked on almost as being Ella herself in the beginning, such was the great peace I gained from sitting alongside it at night, every night, that first summer without her. I would sit in respectful silence, gazing down into the spotlit water and watched the fish cruising around, mesmerised by the glint of the water off the cherub’s face. Dazed some nights by what had happened to me and wondering where the former me had gone. But always, that water trickled, it represented constant life and energy to me and helped me retain focus. It gave me a reason to step outside some days too, when the thought of going anywhere and seeing people really did not seem like much fun.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm writing again

This just came out of nowhere last night as I was editing and correcting a chapter.

I did not want suppression to be my fate, nor Steve’s, and least of all Ella’s. What a waste of her efforts that would be. It was so unnatural to consider we would not welcome Ellanor in, now that she had landed and alighted again. I sensed the effort it had taken and, before then, had never even considered how hard it was to live. My focus had always been on the death part of living.

Still to be fleshed out and I don't want to give away all my book's secrets (there's more to this concept I've just stumbled on the above quote), but dang, I just wanted to share how much I love it when my fingers just start typing away and my thoughts are only juuuuust ahead of what I'm getting down. It's like I'm reading the book for the first time too, in that moment.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Just a dash

I'm agog, myself, to suddenly find that I have dropped (in what seems like a matter of days) weight. Visibly just all of a sudden become more toned. I have a waist, without a roll in the centre of my sides! I have a figure! Awwmigord. It's taken only a couple of weeks of diligence too - I would like to thank the Wii Fit, my dog (for jogging with me) but defo not the parents... because their combined genetics created this lifelong hurdle to beat not the bulge, but mostly fluid and slow metabolism. My father never spoke more true words to me than when I was about 22, when he warned me with a wagging finger, "You have to be careful what you eat, you girls, because it goes on easily and is difficult to take off." I was a size 8-10 then. I thought it a little backhanded of him, because I looked a bit like a head on a stick - I have really broad shoulders - and certainly didn't need to take off any more.

Okay, so maybe he also kind of sealed my fate saying that because - hey, presto! it's been happening ever since. Maybe he jinxed me.

I also bulk up super-fast and that is something I have to really watch. I can go from flabby/fluidy up top to Incredible Hulk in a week. Kid you not. So the scales have moved slightly recently, but the biggest teller for me (as they say you should watch) is the fact that I am edging ever closer to my pre-pregnancy size. Not weight (for I have been around that mark for about a year now). Funny how much my body shape and fitness changed. Although I have been back to what I weighed before getting pregnant with the LGBB - give or take a fluctuating and annoying 3-4kg - I've continued to look NOTHING like I did when I got myself back to as close to my personal peak fitness as I could get (after having Ella and then coping with the subsequent two miscarriages and IVF), because the weight has come from the unflattering fat and fluid, not from healthy muscle tone like it was before. Bleurgh, not a nice way to play Stacks-On! That is hard weight to shift, let me tell you, that sudden-hormones-up, sudden-hormones-down stuff. Grrrrrr.

So. In the past fourteen days of being measured and tested by the Wii Fit, I have lost some weight on nine of those days! Not too shabby *buffs nails on deflating chest* The scales in the bathroom are steady and they don't fluctuate the 2-4kg they were (in a day, I could stack it on and take it off, such were my whacked biorhythms). But as I said, the biggest bonus came for me, yesterday, when I walked out of a shop with a shirt that was three sizes smaller than tops I was scared I would never be too small for only about three months ago.

Don't mind if I high-five myself for this one. I'm so relieved. And so are my lungs (I get this awful asthmatic wheeze when I carry too much fluid and fat between my neck and hip area). Not to mention my mental health is mucho better. It was all feeding each other and I fear a relapse somehow, sometime, but I have to keep edging forward as long as I'm trying my best... don't I?

I'm going back for a refocus sesh next week too at the gym, after giving that one away around the time of the Hand Foot and Mouth marathon we ran for four months last year. It's time to go back and it's time to go hard, see if I can't knock another 10kg on the head, 'eh?! (I can think wishfully)

A fair way to go still, but a bloody good middle-point for now.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I forgot

We admired this perfect, tall flame from Ella's candle on her birthday while we baked in the kitchen. Yes... a rose pink candle. Always, for her.

I hadn't even thought of this story for more than a fleeting moment in the past year or so. I thought that by now, everyone who wanted to find it would probably have found it.

But then I was reminded by an email that came in unexpectedly to my inbox. And then I remembered yet again what I keep forgetting. It's so simple, the premise of the story, but apparently it's not second nature.

I was handed this story on the day we held Ella's memorial by the person who wrote it. Someone who had not laid eyes on her in life but, I feel strongly, had a very sound and creative knowledge of what might have transpired.

How special the story is. How IMPORTANT the message is. How very, very much it aligns itself with how I too saw Ella. Of course it's fantastical. It is an adult fairytale, if you like, so that is how it reads. But my gosh... and you'll just have to go with me (believe me) on this, I know... how many touches of reality are in it are simply a gift I cannot express enough here.

Will you read it? If you've read it, will you read it again?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is this what she sees?

The results of the LGBB's photo shoot were surprising, to say the least. Of course, there were many, many shots of the overgrown weed vegie patch with half a dog running out of shot and lots of sky - these SLR's, they're mighty heavy for the little toddler-grip to hold upright - but I have to say.... she has captured some great photos!

I have not cropped any of these. These are as they were taken. All I have done is expose the blazers out of them so you can't see me blotchy bits. Hmmm, God I love Photoshop.

I'm actually really impressed. They're all flukey shots, sure. But she's captured me - and Steve - in very different facial poses. I was saying to Steve only a couple of days ago that he takes "crap photos of me" (of course, hiding my deep-seated fear that I just cannot take a good photo and therefore blaming it on the photographer). Now that I see how different my face looks, compared to the images Steve captures... well, I think I want to give her the camera more often because I prefer how she sees me to how he does. She's even captured something cheeky in him as well, something I can't get in the camera but see often.

I feel like it's showing us how purely she sees us. Sort of vulnerable. Beautiful. But we can't show it to each other. It's not quite that black and white, or clear I suppose, but it's certainly symbolic of just how much of your goodness you can give your child/ren and perhaps before you know it, you're only giving your partner the "dregs" of who you are because you've fallen into the habit of exhausting yourself being your absolute best with the kids. Don't know.... Needs more thought, that one. Anyone care to share their thoughts on that? I know there are scads of people still dizzy-in-love with their partners. We've got something more grungey than that going on here. And now I'm seeing it in vivid colour, I feel a tad sheepish.

This is giving me loads to think about today. I think there is something in it that's worthy of my responsible attention, though. And yes... my eyes are green. And blue. And ... yellowy-orange. Freaky, huh?!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sickly sweet, nudie runs and butterflies

Just the way any little girl would like it.

Firstly, thank you so very much to each and every person who has been holding us close in their thoughts today. You all know who you are, if I started replying to your very, very kind cards, emails, sms's and phone messages... well, I'd be here til next week. Please take this as one huge THANKS to you all. From myself and Steve. He really dearly needs this support too and though he's never said (instead saying more often over the years, "I'm glad you've found this support"), I know he really appreciates this network very much. It's extremely important for a Dad to not only know his girl's memory is safe, but that he too is being loved and held close during this time of year.

Second point of business: We did it. We baked a cake. Well... actually, we baked individual little pineapple cakes. The ingredients were, pretty much, crushed pineapple, a shitload of sugar (by way of actual sugar and condensed milk in the icing), some flour and shredded coconut.

But oh my God. Heaven in a muffin pan.

The LGBB helped me decorate. She also helped measure, did all the taste testing (as she wanted evidenced, hence the muggy chin shot showing her handiwork) and whinged and whined around until they were ready to be iced. Dang! don't things take for-ev-er to cool/heat up/stop moving/start moving when there is someone hopping from foot to foot impatiently?

I am buoyed by the fact that I have nurtured our souls with something sweet and home-baked today. It was worth it. I got up around 5am and just decided: this was the one we were going to make. The muffin pans were a very last-minute resort and I'm glad we did them this way. It meant that each little cake was its own complete "thing". More imprtantly, it meant that the treacly-ness of all that natural and unnatural sugar was caramelised in the baking process. Oh, yes! So the outer shell was chewy to bite through and the inner was soft, almost doughy. The coconut in the condensed milk, butter and vanilla icing (heat it to reduce, if you're wondering how it stiffened up enough to sit atop these delectable little bites) added just the right amount of substantial crunch.

Oh, heavens, I almost forgot. The nudie run part! When we got to the park, we discovered it had been closed. The ominous pre-warning came when we turned off the main road. "There's no sign to the park anymore," Steve mentioned. Oh deary me, when we got to the entrance and it was closed... Steve burst into tears. It was really quite awful. He was adamant we were going to walk in there. This was not the time to push my motherly concerns about the fact that the place had obviously been overrun for many months now, as weeds had overtaken literally everything we could see. Picnic tables almost obscured by the wild grass, fallen limbs strewn everywhere, the perfect spacious home for snakes and other things that go "bite" when disturbed. We had sandals on.

Nevertheless, I didn't want to just turn around and leave either. So we got the LGBB out and headed in.

It was strange, you know. It was like another world. The place we have been visiting each year since her memorial was never a completely pristine, manicured park. It was a well maintained native bush park though. This... well, I was never expecting this. It's not as if it wasn't beautiful. As Steve mused, it was perhaps even more special. Because now it felt completely wild and free. We walked down the road to the carpark in silence. Traipsed down the path that winds along the top of the steep hill down to the lake. And that's when something moved to our left and caught both our eyes, right when I saw a bundle of blue material balled up on one of the rusty, overgrown barbecues.

A man! A fucking naked man! He turned and sat, facing away and crossing his legs as fast as lightning. Stealthily (as you would if you've been caught without your clothes on in a park that looks like it hasn't seen a human being in well over six months). How could he possibly have planned to expect a young family turning up on a weekday morning for a stroll in a prohibited park? He had obviously jumped the gate too, to take a quick dip in the beautiful, secluded spot.

Poor bastard, was all I could think as Fight-or-Flight Steve next to me whirred into self-contained adrenaline-pumped readiness. It was quite amusing, watching Steve bristle. Perhaps it was the naked man aspect (he wouldn't see many of those). Er.. or perhaps it was the "is this dude a nutter who's going to lure us somewhere dangerous and scary and no one will ever know because we're in the middle of freaking nowhere" aspect. Yuh. It was probably the latter, you're right.

But anyway, he did us no harm. We pretended we hadn't even seen him. He reminded me of Spike, actually, so it was kinda difficult to be scared by him. We walked on and took some photos. The LGBB remained quiet. It's a pretty commanding place even when it's looked after. But now, it just looked so... untamed. Even more magical, and yet I felt very saddened that it is being left to fall into nothingness. If the remainders of what was a lovely nurtured picnic spot were gone, perhaps (like the barbecues, the benches and picnic tables, the toilet block and so forth), it wouldn't look so uncared for. The "weeds" wouldn't be weeds. Oh, I don't know what I'm trying to say now really. Mostly, I'm concerned we'll not be able to go in anymore. In another year, who knows? It might be completely boarded up. To stop skinny dippers and parents with toddlers from getting in if it's dangerous.

Here. I'll explain in pictures. What you cannot see in them are the hoards (or is it a flock?) of amber coloured butterflies. They were everywhere! Must explain more about that in a later post.

We've finished the day with another rudie nudie. The LGBB went starkers on the trampoline for the first time (quite pleased with the arrangement, she was, especially given the heat) and ran circles. Round and round and round, with Steve. Then, we did something I think was quite inspired. We handed her the digital SLR, let her point and shoot. I'm waiting for the pictures to download now. If there are any awesome ones, you know I'll be sharing.

Satisfied today. Not completely happy, for I don't think that's ever going to be possible on this day. Ever. But satisfied and full.

Here goes

During the time Ella was in the NICU, I would tell anyone who would listen that I felt almost disrespectful doing "baby" things to her - such as wiping her butt and changing that tiny tissue-sized nappy that swam on her little bony bottom, dressing her in ridiculously enormous Baby Born dolls' outfits (the only things that remotely fit her and available for use in the Special Care Nursery were shop-bought outfits made for children's dolls) and so forth.

I thought it was because she was my child that I felt this way. I had changed the nappies and clothes of countless children in my time working in child care centres and tending nieces and nephews over the years. I'd never felt this sort of ... well, it felt silly, is how it felt. I felt like a dope, my hands felt dopey and I would apologise to her as if I was talking to a superior who knew better than I. I never saw her as a baby, is something I have often said.

In subsequent years, of course I found out that this was unique to Ellanor, this feeling. I didn't feel all thumbs with the LGBB. I did feel like she was equally as infinitely patient with me as her big sister had been, granted. But I always saw the LGBB as a baby when she was a baby.

This never happened with Ella. And anyone who knew me around that time and recalls my conversations with them about her, day by day as it was happening, will know that I was floored by the command she exuded. Not in a lauding way. Just in a ... a sort of stately, teacher to student kind of way.

Don't know why I have been thinking about that, in particular, since waking at 5.30 this morning. I got barely five hours' sleep - it's one of those nights that goes "this time five years ago I was sitting in a delivery suite room unaware I was in labour", "geez, this time five years ago I was still in labour", and on it goes through the night if you happen to wake and glance at the clock. A procedure familiar to almost any mother, I'm sure. Kind of bittersweet when you realise the results of that effort will not be rising from their bed to celebrate their special day with you.

I love the dawn of any day. Simply magical. We're "looking forward to" 37ºC here today. Steve and I have decided to do what we seem to have made ritual of the past few years on this day; comfort food at a fave restaurant of ours, a trip to the park where we held her memorial. And there was even talk last night of wanting to do something more... Steve is torn about whether he wants to make a cake. So am I. The LGBB would love it. Cake for any occasion is one of her favourite things.

Ella was born at 8.11am on Tuesday 13th January. How different her birthdays are each year. No more reflective silence as the time passes on this date. No rushing about now after a new baby. Today will unfold differently again as we explain to her what all this fanfare (and Daddy having a day at home) is all about. Part of me looks forward to sharing it with Ella's sister and her Daddy.

I hear Lolly chatting. Time to rise and shine.

Here's us at the bush park in 2006 - I was 13 weeks' pregnant with Lolly and, as usual with my pregnancies, wondering yet hopeful that
we'd meet the baby in question

And here's the three of us the following year, in 2007. It was a tremendously surreal day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Because I can

It's the time of year when many friends and family very quickly learned to say to themselves, "Here she goes again". After three years, I definitely felt like I could not freely offer to people, who had been through Ella's birth and death with us, how I feel around this time of year. By then, as well, we had the LGBB. And boy, wasn't I encouraged to feel like an ingrate for not just focusing on the baby I do have rather than the one I don't. Their sentiments, not mine.

So I am grateful for the places (like here) where I can and do mention how very much I miss my girl, moreso during the months of January and February of every year - I daresay this will continue until the day I die. I am quite sure Steve feels the same. Every now and then, over the past week, we've just looked at each other and know. One of us visibly deflates, an actual dropping of the shoulders and a sigh out as the other says simply, "I know." For what more is there to say when you are the only people, united, who could possibly truly know what that time in our lives was like? There are no words, so often.

Ellanor would be turning five tomorrow. That's a pretty significant birthday in the life of a little girl. With each year that passes and I watch the LGBB grow and comprehend more, I am forced to realise how it might have been with Ella and how much, once again, she will never experience. That bit really hurts hard.

Now that I've done this four times, I can say that I am in a place this year where I'm not bitter towards these people. I'm not focused on them. I'm not focused on remembering how we've been treated, Steve and I, as a couple during this time. I'm not even bracing myself for the stuff-ups the usual suspects are likely to make again this year. Let them. My armour is on. I've remembered it this year and worked out how to put it on. It's strong and genuine, not fake and unconvincing.

This doesn't mean I won't be pained. Of course I'm hurting. But I can't be hurt by people this year.

The memories are all there but they're not as raw. This year, something different is opening up in me. I am reminded, by her and by tuning back in to my memories and initial realisations around the time of her life and death, what I was like five years ago. How newly open and trusting of Universal process I was, no matter how all-consuming and insurmountable it all felt. Of course there is sadness, wistful remorse, chest-pulling angst that simply has one question - Why couldn't it be different? - but there is far more purpose surrounding my memories and celebration of Ella's birth day this year.

The one thing sticking with me and making my chest feel hollow today is the fact that she was born on Tuesday 13th. I went into labour the night before, the Monday. So I gather all day today it will be rather difficult to think past the fact that, on this very weekday five years ago, I was at work, being told I looked like I was going to have her tomorrow. Ha ha ha! said my co-workers. I guess I had the last laugh?

I've written about this in my book:

“You sure you’re not having that baby today?” Sean joked.
“No, no, still got at least a couple of months to go yet,” I replied, laughing politely at his suggestion that I was getting about very slowly that day.
I had been working in this temp position, helping out in the pre-Christmas frenzy, and they had asked me to come back during the first weeks of the new year while they were still on minimal staff. Each morning as I parked the car, I had become used to not feeling ridiculous as I said out loud, “Now, Boo, you won’t hear me very much again today. I’m working and won’t be talking so often. But I still love you." I would reassure my belly as I patted it and hobbled out of the car.
Looking back, it is rather comical that I felt the need to do that, as if the baby growing inside me was not also the presence who had been feeling like she was there at my side for over the past year. But this is how separate the two were in my head. Even though I realised they were one and the same entity, to me it was easier to speak to the growing baby as any expectant mother would with her baby. The way I communicated with Ellanor telepathically was still on a very different level to that and I never worked out during the pregnancy how to join the two. Indeed, I now expect this is because I was not supposed to.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The one that makes my heart melt and race all at once

Ellanor was listening to me as I took this series of photos this day. She was thirteen days old. Half way through her life already.

I counted thirteen needle pricks on her hand. And more on her chest (you can just see the ones on the side in this shot). The blue bruising from her hand is of course from said blood drawing. Her other hand looked the same. I remember wincing at the thought. There was bare little skin on her body (she was so early that the lanugo grew on her body after she was born and her skin would grow in folds like that of a roly-poly puppy over several days before she fattened into it, a process I witnessed several times during the month of her life, watching in fascination as she reached a more normal, survivable weight). How could they pierce the chest skin of my baby to take her blood? And her heels I haven't even mentioned yet. They were black and blue. Literally, black and blue. HOW COULD THEY NEED TO TAKE THAT MUCH BLOOD? my mind would scream. It sickens me even now, five years on, to imagine her gutteral mews of protest - her only way to defend herself, to cry out in pain for them to stop. And me, her mother, having to let them do it.

Dear holy fuck, no. Stop, please stop. I did make them stop once. I stood up, pushed the pathology cart away and told them to wait. I desperately needed to minimise her anguish, for I felt that the energy it took for her to endure it was literally sucking the life out of her. They did stop. That day. They told me this was why they didn't like parents to be present, "because it's too distressing for you to watch." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?? I would rather be here, thanks all the same, I told the woman calmly.

Thank you, Blog. I think you've just unlocked a portion of my book. Must make mental note to come back and continue on this memory. I'll leave it there.

I sat there looking through all the bruising, past the puffy eyelids with their bruising from the birth, and saw the most delicate, fragile yet infinitely resilient being I had ever laid eyes on. So, so, so beautiful. Achingly beautiful to me. Giving birth to Lauryn years later just confirmed this to me: she was never fragile. Ella was, fragile like spun glass. But this was also her beauty. Not fragile because of her prematurity. Not fragile because she wouldn't have been able to "make it" in the world and been a push-over. She was strong as an ox; an interesting dichotomy that I noted even at the time. I could see it in her and so could many of her carers. No, instead, I think she was fragile because of her purpose. The weight of her message made her fragile.

I see this photo and it makes me pant. I am now breathing shallow, panting silently. It happens sometimes when I look at certain photos of her. And when I enlarge this one, in particular, on the screen in front of me, I get a quickened heart. I yearn to bundle her close. I want to point to the thrashing toddler in front of me, complaining that Daddy has just stopped Hi-5, and yell at her that she ought to be bloody well grateful.

Of course I can't. Of course I won't. But I wanted to note the other side of the "I hold my living child close because I know just how very much we have lost" coin. That is, some days I am nauseated by the thoughts that I project onto my second daughter. Why aren't you more understanding? Why can't you be more quiet during this time? But it's not Lolly's place to have to change nor my right to ever try to. She would be living up to the impossible: an older sister canonised in her death, forever the child who will be perfect and can do no "wrong". We all - me, Steve and Lauryn included - take our lives for granted, accidentally, as a matter of course, so very, very often. It's inevitable in going through the motions of living our daily lives.

But when I see the memory via a photo of my sweet creation and am forced to confront and remember it, visibly showing the marks of already having endured such pain just to exist in my world, I am impacted heavily. Physically. And vow again to ensure her pain and her life and her fragility will not EVER go in vain.

More than once now on this journey, I have attempted to find a way to hug my computer screen. It's easier with a laptop. But no less dissatisfying.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's coming and it's already nauseating

This year, the LGBB is that much more aware of our emotions. Of reading our faces. Of knowing what tears and drawn faces mean.

I don't want to tell her why her Dad will be home from work with us next Tuesday. But we will. Together, Steve and I will probably try to explain it's the birthday of a little girl who never reached the age to even blow out just one candle.

It's hit me with a thud today. My heart is heavy in my chest and feels like a rock against my back. I went out for a few supplies before and walked out of the shops fighting back tears. By the time I reached the car, they were spilling down my face. This is usual. Typical now of life without a child here. I feel like I'm used to it now, this far along. But while it's familiar, it's still sad.

If you're new to reading this blog and want to be backtracked, please take a moment and share with me one of the first posts on this, my newest blog. I'd be grateful of the understanding.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Confirmation doesn't even do it justice

You know those signs you get that hearten you so? The ones where you go "A-HA!!! I knew I knew I was going sorta kinda in a meandery procrastinating hesitant way in the right direction"? *Yes. I am this confusing and wordy in person. Often. Just ask any of my bestest phone buds*

I had a study day at Peace Space last Monday with Jen. Two days before ringing in the New Year. From virtually the moment I stepped in the door (she was working on writing about the axis mundi within each living thing), she mentioned to me that "they upstairs" were telling her to tell me to look up Mookaite. It's a stone. I didn't, not immediately. Our conversation was rapid and half-counselling, half-mentoring. I spoke of our plans with the house and, without reminding her that she'd told me several years ago that I would be working/counselling out of a room in my garage - I can see it, you will be consulting from home, she had adamantly and almost apologetically told an emphatically resistent and frightened me at the time (before Lolly was thought of, that's how long ago this was) - but it just seemed so unlikely at the time and I thought she must surely have it all wrong*. In the house we were in, before we moved here, the street was not right for it, the land itself was just not conducive to healing. Here, though.... here, there is space. There is greenery, nurture, a hum from the Earth almost. It's majestic in its two hill peaks at front and rear of the property. It's all just right. And so when I told her that somewhere in our plans, a little studio/office/work den (for me, not that I admitted and confessed until just two nights ago to Steve that's what I saw it as) had worked its way on to the back of the garage, she laughed heartily. Great! she beamed.

It was around this time that Jen mentioned the Mookaite, suggesting her sense was that it would be my working "tool"/stone, what I used in my particular healing work (that of babies and mothers, of which I've had several 'lessons' or 'jobs' already and have fumbled through my initiation largely unaided yet methodically taken through, by "upstairs", to get me through seeing them through.... if that makes any sense whatsoever, dear reader). I said oookay, best look into getting me some of this Mookaite and after a couple of hours into my time there chatting with her, it was obvious to both of us that I really did need to read up about this stone.

Jen went into her study den, found a book after nearly ten minutes of searching, blew the dust off it and said, "Let's see whether it's in here." And so it was. I will put, in part, the information it gave in this particular book which was quite different, though complementary, to information I found when researching later that night at home on the internet. I was stunned at how it stood out to me, given the conversation we had just been having about where I planned to direct my study this year.

"Mook Jasper (the other name for Mookaite) activates the deeper aspects of mind and genetic memory. It assists us in perceiving ancestral lessons and in clearing those lessons to free future generations from having to repeat them. It is an excellent stone for use by pregnant parents, as it can facilitate intuitive communciation with the unborn child. Used in meditation, this stone supports alternate-life work but is most suitable for clearing unhealthy patterns from the genetic code."

Well. You could have knocked me down at that point with the faint waft of a sparrow's bum fluff. It seemed to have all the earmarkings of a bloody epiphany to me! Not only did it seem to sit so well with what it appears destined I will be doing more of, it also showed me it will be an integral and essential tool for me this year as I step up my own decoding (I have always, always maintained that I am in "this" with/for Lolly to "crack the dysfunctional codes" passed on by generations - not just my obvious parental patterns overlaid by my own parents, but also theirs, and theirs before them and so it goes, on and on... I'm not just talking physical actions, but genetic wiring; it's something I've touched on briefly in my book, as my paternal grandmother line had horrifying child losses that I guess I've always known on some cellular level is connected to my story). To think I have an aide here on the ground, by way of such an awesome-looking rock (mined only in Australia too, as chance would have it) just blows me away.

The internet search turned up another, yet entirely helpful and accurate, timely meaning.

Mookite is a very grounding crystal that assists with self-esteem. Can help with dreams and meditation and moving forward in life. Helps with fear and depression. Encourages you to be more social, fostering new perception and communication skills. Mookite helps one experiencing new circumstances, soothing erratic behavior and helping one to remain calm.
Mookite is a great companion for those who are alone or feeling lonely. For people who work with children or have children of their own, this is a brilliant stone to help you to understand why the child is behaving as they do and enables you to modify this behavior to a beneficial state without the child noticing the change.

Mookite is also a great stone for those who are kind to all, except themselves, as it allows them to become kind to themselves too.

Also helps to relieve water retention. Mookite has also been used for regeneration and healing the everyday wounds.
Mookite provides a protective shield over you to buffer you from others negativity.
Mookite aligns one's energy and is also very grounding, keeping one's feet on the ground while going through the deep shifts that it initiates.
Mookite assists with decision making, guiding the user to the answer that is best for them at that point in time.
It can also be used for discretion, when helping others with their problems.

Enhances your creativity & the 'flow' of new ideas into your life.

So, I got on and did a search of where I could get some. I was thinking a nice little pebble-sized piece would be good. Perhaps a couple of pieces. I couldn't find it anywhere. Everywhere was sold out. But I wasn't impatient, for I knew that my rock would turn up. Sometime.

That time appears to have been yesterday. By courier. Late last week, during a midnight search, I came across an online store - not only did it have the only piece for sale that I had found in my extensive (albeit only online, granted), it is mere suburbs away from me! The thing is so heavy you need two hands to hold it for any length of time (certainly for carrying around). I can't decide which angle I love best, so just had to share two views, the photos of course don't do it nearly enough justice. But anywho, here it is:

When I told Jen, she wrote back to me, "You just have to love the universe and be ever so thankful that it communes with us in this way. You deserve its relationship and sharing with you. I think (the LGBB) is one unique piece of Mookaite and is being releived of some duty whilst she goes into her walk of life and Mookaite is your shield now that you have taken on your upgraded walk."

It makes so much darn sense to me that my head is spinning.

* To date, I need to humbly point out, Jen has not gotten one "prediction" wrong. She speaks, forgets what she says, I take it all in, take down my notes (mentally, or on paper sometimes) and then realise, holy shit... she's done it again. Time and again this has happened during the seven years I've been working with her. She's truly an awesome ally in my life, but she wouldn't be nearly so accommodating if I was not working towards my own giving out in service to the Earth and for that, I am driven to see this through to whatever its conclusion. To sit idly by at this point would be, well, just hideous of me.

Bringing simple back

I have no idea why (possibly the fact that we've stayed close to home for the past two weeks and hunkered down and - finally - enjoyed some family time together, just the three of us), but I am coming out with ideas to entertain the LGBB left, right and centre again.

Phew! I thought all my ingenious ideas in the Amusement Park @ Home 4 Kids department had up and scarpered about, ooh, last March. But I've had a flurry of spur-of-the-moment ideas that keep little minds amused (and also trick them into doing stuff they know they want to do - like eat - but are just testing boundaries on and seeing who'll cave first). Or at least, make something very ordinary and average suddenly spectacular and worth more than anything shop-bought for a ludicrous amount of hard-earned money.

So, I give you today's "trick":

Baked Bean Boats.
(if you have an ITNG fan, they're also good to call Iggle Piggle boats ;)

Cut the crusts off four slices wholemeal bread.
Roll with a rolling pin to flatten.
Line the bread in non-stick muffin pan.
Bake in slow oven for 5-ish minutes to harden.
Spoon warmed baked beans into each "boat" and sprinkle with cheese.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Ever noticed... dealing with a toddler is like dealing with a drunk outside a club? I swear, sometimes we're more like bouncers than parents.

I mean, in what other job would you find yourself physically (sometimes forcibly) removing an irrational person, legs kicking, arms flailing, shirt riding up over their head, all the while interrupting their own shrieks and verbal protests with contradictory negotiations and bargaining and "I love you" guilt trips? Just because bath time has been announced.

I can't think of many others but that of a parent.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Craft Corner Time strikes again

In November, I had the overwhelming urge to create an advent calendar for the coming days of Christmas. It came from only being able to find Barbie, Freddo Frog, Thomas The Tank Engine or very poor versions of "Santa" printed on the ones I found in the shops and which I just refuse to buy. And most of them also had a chocolate inside each day opened. Not a door *heh heh...* I wanted to open with the LGBB expecting a chocky a day. I saw some phenomenal wooden ones, you know the ones with the little boxes to put an activity or treat inside each day. And I also came across some fabric hanging ones, DIY ones, but they're just not my style.

No, I wanted a plain ordinary every-day, non-chocolated version. Like the one we had growing up. So I decided to make my own.

I found a template and decided to make my own changes to it so it wasn't so clinical-looking and boring to a small child. I used Victorian era images for most of them, throwing in the occasional ditzy snowman shot or a squirrel driving a train full of toys (Lolly loved that one!). And over the entire background, I found a village snow scene that just took her breath away. I would come in and find her gazing at it and the little pictures inside and she was soooooo tempted to open that last big door (we took the calendar down to her in her cot on Christmas Morning and she opened it in there and nearly fainted with the privilege, after a month of sodding window opening). I wasn't sure if she'd completely get the whole concept. But by day three.... she was hooked.

We had such a lovely time together, opening another "Santa window because it's the morning of a new day" after we'd wave goodbye to Steve on his way to work.

And I couldn't be more happy with how it turned out. Me. The Perfectionist. Not concerned (much) about the slight misalignment of some of the images in the bottom left corner, or the fact that it sort of bowed *tuneless whistle* I'm getting there with leaving the imperfections, orright?!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Baby Storm Trooper

What they start out looking like, til they grow into their helmets.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

One of the best things about having a tall Dad

The whizzy-dizzies are SOOOOOOOO high off the ground. We're talking upwards of 6 feet once he gets her to full trajectory *gulp*

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