...a group which I have sadly, but thankfully become intimately part of.
Mommies who have babies in Heaven.
Each month, a different question relating to the loss of one's child or children is posed and answered by women all over blogland.
This month's question is:
"What forms of support helped you the most during your time of loss and even now? How would you recommend other people support grieving mothers?"
Ironically, Butterfly Mommies as a group and in every woman who is a "Butterfly Mommy" has been such tremendous support, and continues to be so.
I have often said, though I imagine I've not relayed it anywhere near as emphatically as I mean it, that I have been overwhelmed with the support John and I have received...from the first, "It's positive!" to the last person standing at Matthew's grave to this very minute, somewhere, I'm sure...we have been and are lifted in prayer and good wishes and love and care.
In the hospital, I was surrounded by people praying for me, crying with me, holding me, assuring me, comforting me and lifting me up. I could not believe how many people were praying for me, seriously. I guess in the medical field, I didn't expect such blatant faith to be found (sad, I don't know why...) and yet from my OB to the Labor and Delivery Nurses to surgical assistants and my anesthesiologist...SO . MANY . PRAYERS. So much scripture thrown at me and covering me. Words simply cannot express my appreciation. One of the nicest things I think anyone has ever done for me was that night in the hospital. I was waiting for John to come back to our hospital from Georgetown, and Matthew had been gone for less than two hours. I realize now I was in shock. My nurse, Jayde, came into my room and asked if she could massage my feet. I guess, I don't even remember. I just remember sitting in one of the rocking chairs, with her at my feet, using some lavender lotion and massaging my feet. I wish I could think of the right word to describe what I felt in that moment--she rubbed my feet so softly and so, well--lovingly for lack of a better word. In that act, I actually felt as if the definition of compassion was staring me in the face. So much of that night was a blur, but Jayde stands out as clear as yesterday.
I had follow-up from Labor and Delivery for several weeks, with calls or cards. My favorite perinatologist in the world, Dr. Sweeney checked in on us constantly and told us it was his personal vendetta to help us continue to build our family. My OBs, Drs. Shonekan, Polko and Davis couldn't have been more comforting if we had written a script for them.
Georgetown was wonderful. John was all alone there with Matthew, and as Matthew died in his arms, he was then all alone. The nurses and doctors in NICU hugged him and comforted him. He was not alone.
Our church family was simply amazing. My pastor was our first 'visitor' and shared what had happened (for those who weren't on Facebook or our text distribution lists) with our church. People poured in to support us with meals, prayers, books, cards, flowers, gifts, visits, donations to our organizations, funeral and reception arrangements and so much more I can't even think of. Still, 18 weeks later, that happens. They continue to lift us in prayer and love on a regular basis and we feel it every day.
Our military family immediately enveloped us. John's squadron and the Marines jumped in with my church, and we had meals for over two months. TWO MONTHS. We were given so many varied memorial gifts and donations in Matthew's memory. Our church was packed for the funeral, though I sadly couldn't tell you much about it all. One thing I do remember, though, is that I had never seen so many grown men, many in uniform, crying so openly and fervently. I am forever grateful that our military is so capable in strength and honor, while so tender and familial with John as we mourned our son.
My school communities--here in Maryland and in North Carolina--threw their arms around us and sent cards, letters, donations, emails, phone calls, gifts, love, compassion and support in so many different ways. I have always considered it such a privilege to be part of each and every one of my students' lives--and have been so blessed to have built relationships with some of the most incredible families ever. Their support, years after I was "their child's teacher" still blesses me.
I have amazing friends. I have friends who started off as 'parents' or 'colleagues' and now are such fun, encouraging, and wonderful people in my life. I am constantly surrounded with love, even if it's a simple email that says, "Thinking of you!" I have friends I've met from elementary school right up through college (thanks, Facebook!) who continually lift me up, pray for me, check in on me and rally behind me.
I have girlfriends I have known for as long as John and I have been married who are like family to me. They always have been and always will be. I have friends who call me each week (funny how this 'free' therapy is the best kind!) for no other reason but that they love me. Oh, what those conversations mean to me!
I have 'online' friends who never cease to amaze me in their support, care, cheerleading, grieving, validating, laughing and loving on me. I know many may think of the computer as such an impersonal thing with regard to communication, but seriously, I do NOT KNOW what I would have done this last four months without my computer. Finding and getting to know so many women, for so many different reasons (infertility, adoption, pregnancy, pregnancy loss, general blog hopping!) has been such a joyful thing in my life. Such a strong network--it's just amazing.
Oh, do I have friends.
And I have family. Since we told her we were pregnant, mom has been taking such care of me and John. She was with me when I was on the phone with John as Matthew died. She was with us for nearly a month after. When Matthew died, the highways and skyways were on FIRE because our family came running. I think one of the reasons Dr. Shonekan let me go home less than 24 hours after the surgery (aside from the fact that she knew I had to get out of there) was because she knew that I was going to be well taken care of, and she was right. There was more crying, laughing, feeding (not so much eating on my part) caring and loving in that week after Matthew died than I could have imagined possible. As I say all the time...words simply can't describe those days, but I am so thankful for every person in them.
Oh my...this doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the support I received and still receive to this day. I am truly overwhelmed.
As far as how I'd recommend others supporting grieving mothers? Well, I certainly don't want to offend anyone and be presumptive enough to say I know how others could support grieving mothers. I can say how I'd like people to continue supporting me.
Please keep remembering that I am a mother and I had a baby. Please be excited for another child we may be blessed with, but always, always, always remember that he or she will be Matthew's brother or sister--ANOTHER child, not A child. I had A child. A wonderful and treasured little boy.
Please remember that and remind me that you remember any way you chose--whether by telling me you bet he'd have been a rascal like his daddy or you can see his chin in his little sister or brother one day.
Please keep sending emails or texts or little messages or songs or poems, etc. I know I don't respond to them all the time, but I hope you know how much I appreciate each and every single one. There are days where those things simply get me through to the next half-hour.
Please keep calling me to talk to me. Even if I don't answer (and I know, I'm bad about it), please do. Much like emails or messages, some days those phone calls are the only things that keep me from sitting on the sofa crying my eyes out. I may cry with you on the phone, but know that when I get off the phone, I really do feel like I have been thought of and supported and can keep going for just a little bit longer.
Please keep inviting me to lunch or coffee or shopping or pedicures or whatever. I'll be honest and say that 9 times out of 10, I'll probably not be able to bring myself to say, "Yes," for a myriad of different reasons, but you will never know how much that one time I do say, "Sure," makes such a difference in my day and my life. It really, really does.
Mostly, keep praying for us and letting us know you are. Pray for our hearts to continue to build the scar tissue we know will be with us for the rest of our lives. Pray for us to continue looking to God for His comfort and assurance and presence. Pray for our family to continue to grow--however that may happen. Please, just keep praying for us.