Complete Disclosure – A Terrible Mom Moment

We’ve all had them. Those terrible moments. The ones we hope no one ever finds out about becuase if they did… Those moments that fill us with mom guilt and make us feel like the worst mom on the planet can be awful to bear. For me, it feels even worse becuase, well, I’m the Cautious freaking Mom and I should not be making stupid mistakes like this. I’m supposed to be the example of safe, positive, nonviolent, attachment parenting – not the one making idiot mistakes becuase I didn’t read something carefully enough. But here we are and as I held my sleeping four year old sobbing over my stupid mistake with my tears falling upon her soft, silent cheeks, I realized… much to my own horror… I was going to share this. I had to share this. This is one of those moments that could happen to anyone – and it probably has – but no one wants to admit it. It’s important to share these stories. Moms have a right to know that not all is rainbows and craft time, right? Of course right. So, here’s the story.

Both of the kids have had slight, annoying allergy/cold-like symptoms. I’ve been assisting their healing through the use of essential oils consistently both topically and aromatically, but these symptoms kept lingering! Each morning in spite of the running humidifier and diffusor with eucalyptus, Breathe blend, oregano, melaleuca and thyme over their heads each night, they both woke stuffy-headed, draining substantially and coughing deeply. After about 7 days of this, I called the doctor and made a phone appointment to discuss their symptoms and figure out what to do.

The doctor said exactly what I had already suspected; lingering sinus drainage due to a slight virus or allergies. (Glad the phone appointments are free!) He suggested the use of Benadryl before bed to help dry out excess mucus in the night, thus cutting down on the drainage and coughing in the morning. The recommended dosage for both kids was 5ML at bedtime. No sweat, right?

The day had been a rough one. Neither of them felt great, neither did I for that matter… I’d been fighting migraine symptoms all day and I was exhausted. My brain was loopy, scattered and erratic. My vision is always a little weird that first few days before the migraine actually hits hard, so I was doing my best just to get through the day. We had our homeschool lessons, cleaning house time, a movie after dinner and I was looking forward to bed because my eyes wouldn’t focus very well on much of anything.

So, 8:30pm rolls around and I decide it’s time to dose them up and get them to bed. I go into the kitchen and pull down the bottle of children’s Benadryl which had the measuring cup it was purchased with still on top. I don’t prefer using the cups, so I never use them. Even though both are old enough NOT to use the syringes becuase I feel like I can get a better handle on making them drink it when I can shove the thing in and force them to swallow. This night for some reason, I could not for the life of me find a single other measuring device to put the medication in so I was forced to use the cup I’d never used. I wasn’t super thrilled with that because I know how awful this stuff tastes and I felt terrible for making them drink it. I should also mention, my kids haven’t been sick enough to require medication of any kind in almost a year, so even giving them meds was something I felt a bit out of practice at. I expected a gross, sticky mess as both of them were likely to resist me while I pressed the tiny cup to their curled lips, but I didn’t have a choice so I did it anyway.

I looked at the cup and all the measurements as best I could with my foggy brain and I couldn’t see a single line that said 5ml. I did find what I thought said 4ml, and thought, “well that’s weird, but that’s ok- they can have a bit less of a dose than suggested, it won’t hurt them to get too little.”

It seemed like a lot to me – 5ml’s would have gone all the way to the top if the line was at 4ml’s… but, it’s been a year since either of them have had any medicine and I kind of remembered the last time I gave them Tylenol it went to the top of the cup, too, so I guess it’s fine… (rationalizing internal dialogue that aught to have made me stop right there and double check, but my hazy brain said “nah, it’s probably fine)

Probably fine. I should have known it wasn’t. I clearly did know… somewhere in me, I knew it was too much but I second guessed my intuition which was clearly trying desperately to make me look again. I passed it off as nothing. I shoo’d the angel from my shoulder and gave the full cup of “4ml’s” to them anyway.

Poor Punkin hated it.. it took almost a full minute to get her to do it but she did… I told her it would help her. I told her it would make her feel better in the morning. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said “okay, mommy”.

So much faith. Such undying, unquestioning trust.

She finished her cup of medicine and I gave her a big hug, told her she did great and gave her a popsicle. She excitedly shouted “YAY!” and ran off to the living room telling her brother to come get his medicine so he could have a popsicle, too.

The Padawan walked in with hesitation and as soon as he saw the bottle, he started crying and whining and turned the other way to leave the kitchen. He was ushered back in and I told him to trust me.

I told him to trust me. Ugh.

So, again just like his sister, he did. He took a tiny sip and almost gagged, so I gave him a minute to catch his breath and take a drink of water. Then, I held the rest to his lips and as I did so, I noticed almost out of the corner of my eye that at the top of the cup, there was the fill line and it read 4tsp. At first my brain didn’t register what had happened and then the screaming truth of it welled up like a volcano and I snatched the cup back and away from him, told him he was done, good job, and tossed the remaining pink goo into the sink to wash down and away…

FOUR TEASPOONS. I was frantic. “Four teaspoons” I thought, how many ml’s is in a teaspoon? Oh God I just overdosed my kids on a sedative.

I OD’d MY KIDS – BOTH OF THEM.

I looked at the cup again, completely confused and now full of adrenaline, my hands shaking. How could this have happened?? How did I mistake “4 tsp” for “5ml”??

Can you see what I did? I read it backwards. I have no idea how or why, but my brain saw it this way and read “mL ____4”.

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I could feel the terror tears welling up and I swallowed them. I didn’t have time for that. I became frantic for the phone… I had to call poison control, I had no idea what to do! My husband tossed me his phone because mine was, of course, annoyingly nowhere.

I called the number on the magnate that has been in the same place on my fridge since the week my son was born. I took a deep breath, and waited for them to pick up. A lady with a kind-sounding voice answered and I gave her the information in as calm a voice as I could. I could hear her smiling. She told me it hadn’t been enough to send us to the ER. She said it was 4x the dosage recommendation, but it was not a toxic dosage and there was no need to consider this an emergency.

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Just as I was about to sigh with relief, she said; “that being said, there are a few things you are going to need to do”.

My heart stopped and I held my breath. Here we go.

“You’ll want to closely monitor them through the night to make sure they are able to breathe.” She went on; “Because they have been given such a high dosage of a medication that is a sedative, they will need to be kept awake for the next hour. This will be difficult… do it anyway, any way you can. After about an hour has passed, you can go ahead and let them sleep but you will need to ensure they are not sleeping too deeply.” She let me know I would need to wake them every hour for the first four hours after they were allowed to sleep to ensure they didn’t fall into a dangerous sleep that could “hurt them, cause them to stop breathing or possibly worse.”

“POSSIBLY WORSE?!” I exclaimed. I mean, What could possibly be worse than not breathing!? (I didn’t say that bit out loud, though. I already knew I sounded like a nutcase, so I let that one go and just listened to her directions.)

If they cannot be revived, go to the ER. If they stop breathing, go to the ER. If they wake but seem disoriented, have difficulties breathing, seem to gasp for air or can’t see across the room, stumble as though drunk and cannot seem to right themselves or if they begin to vomit for longer than an hour, go to the ER.

I’m certain she said some other things, but my mind was racing and I was doing all I could to pay attention to her. I told her I would do all those things and she told me it was all going to be okay, that they would sleep well through the night and could possibly be a bit groggy the next day, but otherwise fine. I nodded and said “that makes sense” or some automatic response like that, told her thank you and she hung up.

I put the phone down and just stood there a moment holding my breath. I watched them from across the room… completely oblivious and running around happy, laughing and teasing each other like nothing had happened. So much innocent trust… and I’d failed them over something as easy as reading a label backwards.

I tried to sit down with them and couldn’t relax. I put some oils on me for calming the nerves and mental clarity hoping I could just decompress and quiet my mind enough to think rationally instead of reactionarily (I don’t think that’s a word, but you get it).

I told the husband we needed to keep them awake for an hour. By that time, it was almost 9pm. I told the Padawan he could play his video games – something he rarely gets to do after dinner. I knew this would keep him excited and engaged and there wasn’t much a chance of him passing out while playing. Also, I had realized my error as I was administering it to him, so he only got about 2 1/2 tsp instead of the full cup.

The Punkin was much harder. She had gotten the full dose of 20ml’s and within about five minutes, she was crying saying she wanted to sleep. I offered her a bowl of ice cream and she perked right up excited at this late-night surprise treat.

After that, all I could do was wait for it to kick in. She finished her ice cream, he continued to play his racing game with daddy and everything seemed like it might just be fine, no issues at all, but I was still in a heightened state of panic. See, since before my son was born, I carried a secret fear of harming my children through some stupid mistake. After my first child was born, I developed severe postpartum anxiety – all focusing around the fears of what terrible thing might happen to them. So, when I say I was anxious, I don’t just mean things like this affect me like any normal mom who can drink a glass of wine and realize that everything really is okay. Things like this deeply, profoundly hurdle my spirit to the floor and stomp on it with steel-toed New Rock boots until I can’t breathe.

I was far from okay.

I went to the back room where I could hide in my fear and grief and I thought… I need help. I need prayer. I need to calm the #$%^& down before I lose my mind. I started crying because I was ashamed. Too ashamed to tell anyone what an idiot I’d been. I couldn’t post it on my own mother’s support page or I’d look like a fraud. The Cautious Mom wasn’t very cautious and she almost killed her kids, please support her and try to hide your rising eyebrow of judgement. Ugh.. No. So, I went to Facebook and I posted it in a secret mother’s group for moms in the church mom/toddler playdate group I’m in. I asked for prayers.. something I rarely do. I felt guilty for doing it, (do I deserve prayer?) but I did it anyway.

As I posted, Punkin walked in the bedroom crying. She didn’t know why she was crying, she said. She just felt weird and scared and had to go potty. So I helped her do that and when she got up, she almost fell down. She tried to walk across the room and seemed disoriented, like the room was spinning and she couldn’t get a handle on where she was or which way to go. I took her hand and she fell into my lap crying and saying, “mama I’m just so tired and I feel terrible”.

I lost it at that point. I grabbed my phone again and called the advice line at the hospital. While waiting on hold, I let her nurse and she quickly fell into a deep sleep with her whole body somehow feeling heavier than normal… even heavier than when sleeping, somehow it seemed different with a new level of weight to her tiny body that pressed down upon me with the gravity of my mistake.

Nurse advice picked up. I told them what happened. She wasn’t nice. She sighed heavily when I told her how it had happened, as though all my self-deprecating guilt was 100% valid and deserved. I agreed, so I didn’t try to stick up for myself when she made me feel small and stupid. She told me the Poison Control folks were the highest level of authority so she couldn’t give me any different information, that she wasn’t allowed to contradict them. I explained I wan’t really looking to contradict them, but it’s been an hour since then and this just happened and I want to make sure this isn’t the kind of “disoriented” they were talking about that needed to be seen in the ER. She sighed irritated again. “Well, I don’t know what you want me to tell you”. I tried to get a bit more stern through my shaking voice and said, “I just want to know if you think it’s safe to leave them at home or if you think I should take them in tonight. Is it worth the drive in the worst rainstorm we’ve had in years for me to pack them in the car at 9pm and drive 45 miles to the closest emergency room? Or do I need to just calm down and relax?”

“If you feel like you should go, then go.” Her answer was curt, unemotional, annoyed. I swear, I wanted to throw my phone across the room. I told her thank you and hung up. My passed out, drugged up child was breathing deeply and heavily in my arms completely unaware of what had happened. I started bawling. My tears covered her sweet face in salt water before I realized and I carried her out into the living room, sat her up against a pillow and watched her.

She looked so peaceful and I remember wishing I could feel at peace, too.

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Soon after, the Padawan began to doze. I got him a pillow and blanket and made sure he was sleeping sitting up. It was now about 10:30pm and I realized there was no way I was going to be able to sleep in my bed with them out on the couch and there was no way I was going to be able to keep them sitting up if I had them in bed with us. I was sleeping on the couch with them. The husband went to sleep in the bedroom alone and I sat between my two, sleeping beauties all night. Once I was settled and he was asleep, I went back to Facebook to find the most beautiful, loving, compassionate rally round me. I saw statements reaffirming that I was a good mom, stories relaying similar situations they had been in, applauding me for my quick thinking to call Poison Control. Then I saw someone’s comment, someone I didn’t know personally… she wrote; “Mistakes happen. We have all made them at one point or another! Grace upon grace!” All the women responding to my post were so full of love, prayer and seemed honestly overjoyed to deliver prayer for me and my babies was overwhelming. I started crying again… thankful, so thankful for this group of mothers and the “grace upon grace” they so freely offered.

It took me till about 1:30am to calm down enough to nod off myself… 4 1/2 hours after I’d given them the medicine. I woke again a few hours later to reposition them both to make sure they weren’t slumped over and then went back to sleep.

When they woke up, they were totally fine and had zero clue what had happened. The Punkin had no memory of the experience or her episode before she went to sleep. The Padawan seemed completely fine and had no idea. Neither of them seemed hung over, but both were starving and ready to get up and on with their day by 7am.

It was over. I could breathe. They were fine. My mistake was not life-threatening, but I’d learned a valuable lesson.  Several, in fact, worth sharing with you.

1; Trust your intuition. Always. Always. Always. Even if you’ve already double checked. If something tells you to do it again – JUST DO IT AGAIN.

2; Double check dosages and labels and lines on the cups and medication administration tools. Especially if you are dyslexic when you have migraines.

3; The combination of lavender, patchouli, vetiver, Balance blend and Serenity blend works just as well as a prescription-level medication for nervousness.

4; It’s always okay to ask for prayer. Even if you don’t do it often or feel deserving. It’s always okay.

5; It really will be okay.

6; Things like this really can happen to anyone and it doesn’t make you a bad person or a negligent parent. Stuff just happens sometimes.

7; It’s okay to forgive yourself and most importantly,

8; it’s okay to talk about it.

I now know others who have been through similar and even far worse situations than this and I am certain I’d never have known I wasn’t the only one if I hadn’t shared my story first. So, the reason I am sharing it now with you is to show you that I know how it feels to make stupid mistakes that can hurt your kids. I know what it’s like to feel that guilt. I know what it is to think “eh, it’s probably fine” and then realize you were terribly wrong. You need to know that you are still a good mom. You are still trustworthy. You are still amazing. Everything is going to be okay. Even if it’s bleak in the moment, or even for days after… things will be okay.

Reinvention is Hard When You’re Broke

So, a season ago I posted that changes were coming to the site and to my writing style and subjects. Since then, I think I’ve written one article and it was only because so many of my child-hating friends kept posting something awful and I just had to vent about it. You can go look if you’re curious, but really, it’s just a rant. LOL

I am deeply sorry for my absence, for many reasons. I have no excuses for it, I’ve just been busy and tired and broke and sick and stressed and anxious and… yeah, excuses. You get the idea.

The bottom line; It’s difficult to reinvent yourself when you’re broke, sick and busy. When you are so absorbed in the problems of the day to day, trying to make sure bills can get paid and worried that they won’t and money that is supposed to be there isn’t and people cancel and holidays happen, and you get so trapped up in the challenges that you face in that MOMENT.. it makes it nearly impossible to see far enough ahead to allow even a spark of creativity to shine though the mire and muck of every day life.

So, clearly, not much happened as far as changes. Sure, I changed the background theme a few times and invented categories, which, I DO think are pretty cool… but no real, major changes.

Sorry about that.

I received an email today that stated “your WordPress web address will expire in eight days, will you renew?”

Well, will I? I thought about it… I thought, “does anyone even read this anymore?” … went to check the stats… a few people actually DO read this. I was amazed. It’s not many, but a few. And a few is better than none. But, is it worth it? I’ve been trying to invent “The Cautious Mom” for four years and I still can’t even get my own mother or best friends to read it. Is there really any point? It’s not like I can make money doing this when hardly anyone reads it… am I wasting my time?

So, I pondered. I wondered. I meditated. I prayed. Here’s what I came up with:

I decided if I’m going to post from now on on this page, it’s going to be the real me, the honest me, the me that isn’t just giving advice or sharing some wonderful thing I’ve learned. I’m not in that space right now and I can’t really give my all to that pursuit. I mean, if I find something that needs to be discussed or shared, I’ll post it, but I don’t have time to research specifically for the point of blogging or sharing and I’m making a concerted effort to practice non-violent and compassionate communication, so I won’t be doing any rants anytime soon.

That just leaves me and my life, it’s chaos and triumphs. My struggles and joys with homeschool, challenges and anxiety, the fun and fear raising a son with autism and ADHD and his warrior princess sister who wants to learn math for fun before bed and asked Santa for a punching bag. I’ll write about what it’s like being a geek writer and a private vocal coach. I’ll write about essential oils and maybe share some recipes every now and then. I’ll write about what it’s like to be broke and scared that someone might find out that I’m not not fixing my house because I’m lazy and don’t care, but because I’m super broke and can’t afford it.

I once had a dream for this page… a page where mothers would come to join me in parenting for the joy of parenting. A place where mothers who did not find joy in shaming their children could see they were not alone. A place where loving being a mom was okay and accepted with a community that lifts one another up – where breastfeeding was celebrated, encouraged and supported through education, advocacy and a mountain of research. I dreamed that it could even become a brand, a source of news, information, tools for success and even more eventually… it was a good dream.

I’m not saying it can’t still be all those things, and I think at times, it has been sorta close… but right now, today, I’m moving forward in a more personal direction. All I have is right now. Every single thing I’m doing right now is a one step at a time process and my creativity comes in bursts, not in waves.

So, yes, I’ll keep going. I’ll pay the renewal and keep going because I do love what this page has become, has been in the past and I am sure that it can continue to be something awesome, even if it changes from time to time. Happy new year, friends. We’ll see what happens next when we get there!

Just Another Rant About Child Shaming and Emotional Abuse

It’s four days until Christmas but I’m not feeling very “Christmasy” today. No, it’s not just my Seasonal Affective Disorder rearing it’s ugly head, although… since today is the darkest day of the year, that’s not doing so great either, but that’s another issue.
No, today I’ve just reached a boiling point with a subject dear to my heart and I need to vent about it.
Now, first off; I’m not posting this to shame anyone or call anyone specific out. It’s a general disappointment in an entire culture within our society and that’s all. If it hits close to home for you, I recommend you take a moment and evaluate that for yourself before you lash out at me or try to explain why it’s not that big of a deal. Holding up a mirror to negative behavior is never fun, but it is always necessary. Literally no one else seems to be doing that in this case, so I guess it has to be me. So fine, here is me… denying this behavior and asking others to follow.

So… there’s this meme floating around Facebook right now. Here it is:

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-7-21-33-pmWhy do people think it’s okay to joke about hurting children and damaging them emotionally? Why is that acceptable?

Take some of these “funny” memes running around these days about making children cry and change the word “children” to some thing else – a minority or gender or sexual orientation, perhaps a mental disorder. Is it still okay?
Of course not! It’s racist. It’s sexist. It’s bigoted and you’d be shamed off Facebook and probably lose all your friends.
What about Jimmy Kimmel’s Halloween candy “prank” of telling your children that you’ve eaten all their candy? Is that funny? To watch your child crumble into tears and feel like you can no longer be trusted? To purposefully watch your children suddenly lose faith in you as a parent along with the loss of something so important to them is literal, actual abuse.
Again; try exchanging it with something else and see if you still think it’s funny:
Give a lonely, aged person living on a fixed income in the ghetto $10,000. Tell her she can buy what she’s always wanted and needed to make her life secure and more comfortable.
See her light up with thanks and joy, even tears and praise to God for such a miracle. Then, go out and have a great time with her as she goes to all the places she’s never been able to go to fill her world with things she never thought possible. Then the next day, when she wakes, be there to see that you’ve taken it all away. When she asks you what happened to it, tell her, “I threw it all away”.
Now, here’s the funny part… Wait for her to believe you. Wait for that deep feeling of heartbreak to wash over her. Let that pain sink in until she crumbles under the weight of your actions. Then, just to make it extra funny, let her sit there a while as you record her reaction. THEN, when she’s fully reached a point of devastation, confusion and broken trust, tell her it was all a joke and her things are just fine and it was all just a joke.
Is that okay?
What if those shows where the people come to build homes for families in need had a “day two” where they PRANKED them by taking it all back and told them, “oh sorry, it was just for the show, it’s not real… go back to your ghetto”, all while still recording it for a laugh?
Would that be funny?
No. It’s disgusting, emotional abuse. All of this is terrible.
So, why is it okay to “joke” about child abuse? Why am I told, “geez it’s just a joke” when I voice my opinion that these memes are not funny, they are amplifying a culture of abuse and it’s not okay??
I honestly don’t understand the darkness some people have in their hearts that they can see these things and be okay with it. It’s not okay, guys.
Please… stop child shaming. Stop perpetuating the culture of emotional abuse upon children.
There is nothing funny about hurting a child, physically OR emotionally and those of you who suffered emotional abuse know how deeply it hurts, how life-altering and shattering it can be… don’t share this stuff and make others feel it is okay to do it.
Ok, moment of honesty – I’m all for dark humor. Seriously – but that’s not what this is. This is perpetuating a culture of child-hate that is unacceptable and I admit, I used to do it, too. Before I had children of my own, I was totally right there with my dark, cynic heart, perpetuating the negativity and laughing at things like this. I’m not saying I was always above this, I mean I had a bumper sticker on my car that read, “Santa isn’t real” on my car when I was 22! Now, I deeply regret that I had a hand in perpetuating that culture of destroying the magic of childhood but at the time, I didn’t see it that way. It was just funny and I couldn’t understand why people took it all so seriously. It’s a dark-hearted world where hurting others is so deeply ingrained in our society, we don’t know to be repulsed by it.

These things SHOULD repulse us, not make us laugh and it wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how deeply this was true. This world treats children, as a citizen class, absolutely terribly. They are treated like objects, possessions and worse. If they act out, we drug them. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I could see it so clearly. It hurt to see how people saw these precious beings, the adults of our future, as nothing more than annoying inconveniences. Nothing of value, worth little more than to be something to laugh at and tease.

What’s worse is that I see so many people who are “activists” for those all around the world who need help… they fight for animals, they fight for minorities, they fight for acceptance of disabled people and those with autism. They fight against bullies and apathy and they ask people to relate and honor those who suffer from chronic pain or depression or addiction. They fight for equal rights and inclusion and justice in nations where women are mutilated and in places where families are murdered for their faith… but then, these same people post crap like this and it just baffles me.
Guys, you can’t have it both ways. Either you care about humans or you don’t. Either you stop pretending you care about people or stop this culture of hate wherever it is. You can’t fight to protect victims of abuse then turn around and perpetuate and laugh at abuse. It doesn’t work that way.
We perpetuate that culture when we dismiss the value of our children. We perpetuate that culture when we allow ourselves to laugh at emotional abuse in all its varied forms.
We cannot hope to elevate the value of our children in the eyes of the world unless we can stop perpetuating these subtle cues to tear them down and hold them under our boot heels and what is possibly even more important; we wonder why our children don’t have any empathy- we wonder why they are so easily swayed by “the dark side” and why there are sooooo maaaannnyyy buuuulllies out there?
Apathetic parenting and playing cruel jokes on our kids is part of the reason, guys. Kids are a blank slate. They live what they learn and if they learn it’s “fun” to play cruel jokes that make others cry, they will LIVE that and repeat it.
One last thought; please, just think about this and consider one final thing; that what might be “just a joke” to you, could actually be someone’s reality. By laughing and sharing, you are agreeing that it’s okay.
Is it? Do you want your kids to know that you think it’s okay? Do you want them to learn that laughing at others in pain is just fine and it’s okay if you don’t “mean it”?
We’ve got to be better than that guys. Our literal future on this planet depends upon it.

The Triangle of Good Intentions

Something I’ve learned in the few years I’ve been managing a mother’s support page on social media, is that mothers really hate feeling like others think they are stupid or that they are being judged when they open up with a vulnerable topic. Woah, revelation!!

Not really. I mean, of course no one wants to feel like that! The thing is, it’s really easy to make someone feel stupid, inadequate or like they are failing at life without even meaning to and it can be broken down to a single moment in each conversation. We, as the listener, have the choice between three voices with which to listen and respond and we often confuse them because they are similar.

These three voices are what I call the “Triangle of Good Intentions”. The three points on the triangle are all wonderful when used in the right way for the right reasons, but switch them around and use one in place of the other… and it’s a recipe for disaster.

The three points are:

Support, Advice and Advocacy.

Support is listening, giving hugs, reassuring, consoling and forgiving. Support says “you are doing great, I believe in you!” or saying things like; “Buck up, things will get better, I’m sure you will figure it out!”

Advice offers support through sharing of experiences, tips and tricks to help a situation or references to studies and research that may help. Advice says, “I am so sorry to hear you are going through this, when it happened to me, this is what I did to help, here have a book and some links to a research study on this topic, maybe it can help…”

Advocacy fights against abuse, neglect, ignorance and misinformation by speaking loudly about truth and justice and is dedicated to protecting others. Advocacy says, “I am furious you had to go through this unnecessary pain, I will fight against those who spread this bad information to prevent it from happening again!”

Each of these are fantastic on their own and in the right places. When advice crosses that line and steps into the world of advocacy, or advocacy suddenly dumps a load of resources and anger on Support’s sidewalk, it makes everyone uncomfortable, upset and offended. The result is someone is feeling unsupported and shamed while the other is feeling confused and frustrated.

So, after many years of doing it the wrong way, here’s my quick guide to putting the right voice in the right place.

First of all, stop and reflect. If I’m saying things to make me feel good about what I know and not to make others feel good about themselves, I’m not using the right voice. I need to take a step back, reevaluate why I am passionate about the subject and make an active choice to leave my own ego out. My full attention should be put toward helping someone else in the way THEY need to be helped.  I also have to remember that if no one asked for my opinion, there is no reason to make others feel shame, hurt or judged for having a different way of thinking, so there is no reason to even SAY my opinion unless it’s being asked for. There are always ways to speak my truth without condemning others for their own.

So, now onto the guide.

Support:

If someone comes to you for support, that may look like this: “ugh this sucks that my doctor put me on a special diet and I have to have injections and IV’s because of this condition I have” – they’re not looking for advice or to have the advocate voice chime in. They don’t want to know  to tell them how much you don’t like doctors or pharmaceutical companies. They’re not interested in your perspectives of the racket of the drug companies and how our government is feeding this prescription-filled nightmare by fueling the FDA and allowing them to make decisions based on money instead of wellness. Support doesn’t go into a backstory or the history of medical science. Support says, “Is there anything I can do to help? Can I come with you to appointments or support you at home in some way?” Support knows to keep its mouth shut and it’s opinions to itself. When someone asks for support, they are asking to simply not be alone in their time of need.

Advice (and support)

If they come to you asking, “hey, so this is happening, does anyone have any personal experience and suggestions? I’m not sure what to do…” they are coming to you for advice AND support. Advice can jump in and say, “oh! I learned about this, here is what I know for you to review and see if it might work for you!” Support follows up after by recognizing that just because Advice had good things to say, the person asking may not be ready or able to take it or use it. Support reminds us that what worked for us, worked for US and may or may not work for someone else. So, support then chimes in to remind everyone including you, “if there is something I can do to help, let me know but I will SUPPORT you through whatever choices you make.”

Advocacy (and support) … are you seeing the theme here?

If someone comes to you with a frustration or disappointment, fear or confusion, something maybe like; “this doctor doesn’t seem to be hearing me and I’m feeling bullied into a situation I don’t agree with, what can I do?” well, THEN you can turn to the Advocate. The Advocate voice can help, support, AND fight with them through education and resources, providing details on experts, second opinions, history or research studies, whatever seems relevant. These tools can help someone feel empowered to make the right choices for themselves and their families and can be such a comfort to have when given at the right time!

If we jump to don our Advocate armor and go to war for someone who only wants support, or we only provide support and our loved ones are asking for an Advocate… that’s when we can accidentally make enemies out of people we care about.

We all need to understand what voice is being asked for and then provide them the voice they need in the right moments. If you aren’t sure, ask! There is nothing wrong with saying, “I’m not sure what to say, but I care deeply about your situation and I’d love to help. I have resources if you want them, please let me know what I can do.” This lets your friend know that you are open to more than just a hug and “you’ve got this!”, it shows them that you may be able to do more for them beyond that, but without the unsolicited advice train barreling through their front yard. It gives them the control to know you are are there for them if and when they need you.

I believe if we all take a little more time to recognize these three voices and seek to discover where each is best utilized in any conversation, we could do away with mommy wars and maybe even ALL wars, altogether.  (lofty goals, I know…)

What do you think about the three voices concept? Does that work for you? What are a few ways you do/can provide support to others without adding unwanted/unintended judgement?

I’d love to hear back from you!

Break Down The Door

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-4-18-26-pmI want to continue our month of pregnancy and infant loss awareness. I want to continue to break down that door of silence and tear down that wall so others may pass through.
 
So many women go through the experience of pregnancy and infant loss feeling like they shouldn’t complain, that it should be “no big deal”.  They go through years and years feeling the loss and feeling stupid for feeling sad about it.  They are told to push it off, move on, get over it, get on with life and forget about it because “it” wasn’t even a baby.
Today I wanted to touch quickly on what I believe is one of the major reasons losing a baby who has never been born is so difficult in our culture.
 
The world at large does not care about the loss becuase they don’t recognize that loss as a human loss.  They barely recognize your baby as a person before it’s born, let alone a person worthy of being mourned.
 
Guys, it was a baby.
A tiny human with a beating heart and hands and feet and ears, even a brain, and it deserves to be thought of for all it was to you and all it could have been.
 
Your baby deserves a place in your life, it deserves to be remembered.  Your baby deserves to be thought of as a human.  A child.  YOUR child… and you deserve to be allowed to grieve the loss.
 
No matter how old your child was, your baby was still your baby and it is okay to be sad.  It is okay to cry.  It is okay to feel hurt and broken.  It is okay to mourn.
 
Your grief is valid and it is okay for you to demand the time to mourn in whatever way helps you heal.
I would love for you to help me break down this door for others who have had to pass through their grief and pain alone.
Share with us your experience and how you were able to move forward.  Use this safe space to stand with us and be counted as “One In Four” to share how you felt after, how you coped.  I am certain our stories can help others. If we can empower people to talk about this, maybe we can also empower them to demand answers faster.  Maybe we can help them to demand respect and time to grieve.
The first time it happened, I didn’t know I was allowed to care.  No one else seemed to, so I thought I should just let it go- carry on, move forward and not think about it too much.  I thought, “It was a terrible thing, but it happens to so many people, I’m far from special so, I shouldn’t need to take too much time wallowing.”
I thought this becuase this was how others acted around me when I talked about it.  I wish I had been more vocal, more demanding – it may have prevented what was to come next, but how could I have known?  Everyone – literally EVERY ONE made it sound like it was no big deal.  There’s no reason for it, sometimes it just happens, there’s nothing to study, nothing to test… it just happens.  Move on.  So, I tried to do that and let it go.  Like a bump you hear in the night, the sound is just the wind and there’s no reason to get up and investigate.  Most of the time.
The last time it happened, I demanded my time to mourn.  I refused to pretend I was okay.  I didn’t care that no one else considered it a baby.  I mourned because I needed to.  I was far from fine and I resented the world that couldn’t understand why I cared so much about something that “hadn’t even been born”.
It was a someONE who had not yet been born.  Not a “thing”.  Not an “it”.  It was a tiny human and for whatever reason, he/she didn’t make it.
That time, I demanded my doctors take action.  I demanded testing and time to figure it out.  It took a few months, but I got a new doctor who did some tests and he said I was fine.
Then, it happened a final time.  The doctor checked me out, told me it was so early there was no need for any intervention and since all the tests had been okay, there wasn’t anything we could do.
As he got up to leave, he had one last thought.  “There is one thing”, he said… “y’know, your progesterone levels were pretty low, almost too low to even be considered pregnant.” He continued, “when you are ready to try again, call me the second that test turns positive and I’ll place you a prescription for progesterone.  Let’s see if we can get this baby to stick next time” …and he walked out the door with a reassuring smile.  I felt better.  And worse. Worse because that mean there had been nothing wrong with my babies… but my body couldn’t hold onto them.  I felt like I’d failed.  Even with the possibility of a solution, I felt miserable with loss.
Eventually however, I found a way to mourn, honor and move forward that helped heal my heart.  Eventually, we tried again and it was brave and special and important that we did not allow our fear of another failure to overcome our desire to build a family.
That desire to try again is now sitting in my living room playing Star Wars III on the Playstation and will be turning six in three weeks.

Now, if you feel you can, please share your stories below.  Help others break their silence by posting your story here.

 

What To Say? -Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

We are continuing the short series on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month this October.

A few days ago, a friend and fellow Cautious Mom asked, ” For those us that haven’t experienced this kind of loss, what can we do or say to support those who have?”

A profoundly important, valid question, I thought it warranted an entry all its own.

Everyone struggles with the idea of what to say.

If you know someone who has been through this and need to know what to do or say, here are a few tips of what to do and say when you don’t know how to help;

First of all, each mother is different and approaches this issue, and her own grief, differently.  Saying “I’m sorry” might feel like comfort to some while it feels like stepping on a stack of knives to others.  The best advice I can give in this case is, tread carefully and always be genuine.  If you don’t know what to say, then say that.  Don’t try scrambling around for the right words that you think she may want to hear, just tell her “I wish I knew what to say, I don’t, but I’m here and I love you”. That will be good enough, I promise.

Offer to be there to listen.  Make sure they know you genuinely want to know if they are ready to tell the story.  Offer to be there while they silently grieve without requirement of speech.

It’s okay to tell her that you are sorry.  Sorry for her grief, her pain, her loss, her feelings of helplessness, even sorry that you can’t fix it.

Start helping.
Make coffee.  Empty the dish washer, the trash or dust her house.  If you see a mess, clean it up.  Do the work that takes physical exertion because that may be hard for her for a while and the pain in itself might make her feel worse because it is a reminder of the loss.

Ask if you can run any errands for her, ask her who you can call for her, who can you text for her, offer to communicate news to others on her behalf so she doesn’t have to do it.

Help her heal her body and mind.
Buy her healing soaps, salts or offer to help her with essential oils that will ease and heal her body.  Look into spa treatments or maybe a meditation or yoga class that you could take together once she is up to it.  Offer to brush her hair or paint her toes.  Offer to draw a bath or a shower for her and put something special in there like flowers or something that smells nice to comfort her.

Help with the kids.
If she has other children, asking to take them away so she can rest might have the opposite reaction than you expect.  She may feel a desperate need to keep them close in this time and may resent your desire to remove them from the picture, even if it is to help her.  So, instead of offering to take them away, help her with them by playing with them, making sure they are given attention, have clean clothes on and are fed. Help by prepping their lunches for a few days or just spending time with them to let them know they matter, too.

If she needs the help, offer to meal prep or start a meal train with friends so she doesn’t have to focus on cooking for a few days.

Tell her she doesn’t have to hold back.  If she needs to cry, scream, melt into the floor, she can do it and you will be there to help or even to leave her alone and field everyone else to keep them away so she can do what she needs to do.

Offer to keep her phone for her so she doesn’t have to get all the calls and texts that will come in.

Tell friends and family how to help her.  Ask her what she needs them to know, or do and help delegate, but involve her as little as you can so she doesn’t have to deal with it.

Validate her pain.  Tell her it’s okay to be as upset as she is.  Let her do it for days and days if she needs to.

If her grief is bad, and I mean really bad, you may need to offer to help her talk to her doctor.  She could have a hormone imbalance that creates excess fatigue, depression and it may take assistance to get her back to herself and balanced again.

Remind her that it wasn’t her fault.  Remind her she’s a good person.  Remind her that her past did not create this.

Tell her you’ve looked into support groups, offer to go with her if she wants to go.

Tell her she can cry as much as she needs to, that it doesn’t bore you to hear her talk about her grief.  If she needs to call you at 3am because she can’t stop crying, make sure she knows she can call you.

Here are some tips of what not to do;

Don’t tell her “you can have another”.  – children are not pets and a baby cannot be replaced like a dead goldfish.

Don’t say, “well at least you had it easy because so and so had this terrible thing happen and that was way worse”.  No one wants to be told they should minimize their grief becuase it could be worse.  That’s unfair and it will hurt her deeply.  It will also prevent her from being able to heal through communication because it has invalidated her pain.

Don’t remove any baby items from her home or surroundings.  Sometimes we feel like we should take away the reminders so she won’t have to think about it.  Don’t do that.  This is a part of the grief experience and removing items such as baby clothes, sonogram photos, nursery decorations, etc., must be done by her, when she is ready.  She may even find them a comfort to her, so let her decide what to do with them and when.  When she is ready, let her know you are there to help if she needs it.

Don’t shield her from other’s joy.  Many think, “oh, Mary lost her baby so we shouldn’t tell her about our pregnancy”.  I guarantee you she will be far more hurt by your secrecy than your news.  But she also may find your news devastating to her which will make her feel guilty.  Guilt on top of grief is awful.  She will try to internalize it so you can’t see it.  Just know that it’s probably there try your upmost to be respectful of her feelings.  Basically, don’t rub it in.  Ease her into the news gently, not with a surprise trip to the baby section of Ikea to buy all your own baby needs.

Don’t tell her it’s “God’s Will” or that all things happen for a reason.  None of that is comforting.

Don’t tell her “it could be worse”.  It’s not your place to quantify her loss and measure it against anything else.

Don’t say, “well, at least you can drink now”.  I guarantee you that will not make her feel better.

Don’t hesitate to let her know if you had a similar experience, but be careful not to compare pain or make her feel that your pain is greater than hers.  It may help her to hear your story, but it won’t help her if you say things like “at least with you” or, “it was worse for me because”.  Just share the story, let her know you understand, that you are sisters in a shared kind of grief and that will help her.

Please don’t equate her child’s death to the passing of your pet.  Yes, your pet’s passing was tragic.  It’s not the same thing. No offense to your pet or your relationship with your animals, but it’s not the same.

Don’t tell her it’s time to get on with her life.  She will grieve as much as she needs to in her own time.

If she miscarried, don’t tell her “at least you didn’t get to term” or anything else that may minimize her experience just because the baby had not yet been born.

Don’t tell her that her baby is an angel unless she has already said this herself.

Don’t tell her that the baby is in a better place.  There is no better place for a baby than with its mother.  She will resent this and it will break her heart for feeling inadequate and alone.

Last, remember there is no magic word or phrase that will heal her.  Your presence and your support will help, but only she can do the healing, when she is ready.

I hope you found this helpful, if anyone else has other suggestions I did not touch on today, please log in and post them in the comments.

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October – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

October is an awesome month.  It’s one I have spent my life looking forward to each year since I was a child.  It’s full of fall weddings, jack-o-lanterns, all things in my favorite shades of orange, golden, red and pumpkin spice fills the world with autumnal magic.  There are pumpkins on the hillsides, a delicious haze that hangs in the air making all things a mysterious, slightly unfocused shade of gold.

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There is another tradition this month is known for, however – a lesser known event, a day of awareness that inspires a month of education.

Tomorrow, the 15th of this month, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day and we honor this by calling the entire month “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month”.

It’s also the anniversary of the month I lost two babies to miscarriage, one year after the other.  Most moms call their little growing babies a cute pet name like “bean”, “nugget”, “spud” or “sprout”.  I didn’t have cute names for my growing baby after that first loss.  Even with my first child, until he was born and Liam had a name, he was simply known as, “the one who stayed longest”.  I was too afraid to claim him, worried if I did… he would leave me, too.

Now, I’ve written about this before.  I’ve shared my story in another entry a few years ago, but there are pieces that were missing from that story and, frankly, I wasn’t ready to tell all of it.  That and I’m a better writer now, so I can articulate these darker parts more clearly.  Speaking now as a mother of two healthy children, the world- my world, is still deeply colored by the losses I have experienced.

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I often wonder if I’m the only one who thinks this way… it certainly seems so in this age of apathetic parenting.

While other parents complain about the hardships of raising children, the irritations, the frustrations, the “I can never get anything done” moments and the “she made this giant mess again” issues – I’m over here rejoicing in my gift of these two, amazing beings who stayed.

Sure, things get hard.  Sure, my children are frustrating when they don’t feel like eating their food or putting their shoes on after the 30th time I ask.  When my son breaks things or my daughter knocks something over because she did exactly the very thing I told her not to do two minutes before, of COURSE it gets me upset.  But I have never taken a single breath they take for granted and every moment, every experience, every first, eighth and hundredth moment is cherished.  Yes, even the very loud ones.  Because you never know how much time you’ll get.  If a baby can be taken at two months, she can be taken at 4 years.  If he only thrives for five weeks in the womb, he can just as easily be hit by a car or taken by SIDS, or stolen or choke at 5 years.  Someone I know just lost her healthy, athletic, 18 year old son to an aneurysm.  So, every moment is like the last in my mind.  Every minute is honored, savored and sacred as though I may never get another because none of us ever know for sure.

I never want to look back on these few years and wish I’d done more, loved more, been there more.  I want to know I’d been there as much as I could, loved as much as I was capable and did everything I could to make sure they knew that 100% of every second of every day and night, I tried my best to do things right.

Why?

Becuase I know what it means to feel like you have a wasteland womb- a toxic, dead space with ovaries full of sand and good for nothing but a monthly week of misery and migraines.  I know what it feels to fail at creation.  I know how precious these beings are because it took my body so many times to get it right, I’d almost given up.

Have you ever looked at your child and just stopped to marvel at the wonder of their being alive?  Have you ever held them close in the dark of night, secretly praying they never leave you, begging God to give you more days, so many more… because you cannot bear the thought of them not being in your world?  Have you ever held their hand and felt so grateful you could do nothing but cry?   I have.  Almost daily.

I’ve also sobbed like a hot mess when the thought crosses my mind that I sometimes still don’t feel like I deserve them, and I worry that they’ll be taken from me too soon.  I sometimes think to myself – I hope that my story doesn’t end before I’m ready to say goodbye or before they are ready, too.  I hope my babies grow into fine adults who never question whether or not I loved them and I hope they always know that I valued them enough to put them first.

Having babies after you lose a child creates this magical experience where every moment most mothers find terrible, is transformed into a gift.  Even the hardest times, I find myself making it clear to my children how important they are, how valued they are, how deeply, powerfully loved they are.

Even when I’m annoyed, I hold them.  Even when I feel like I need ‘me time’, I nurse them.  Even when I am so exhausted I just need a quiet bed to myself, I’ll welcome them to my pillow and hold them tight.  When they cry for no reason when I am trying to get things done or asking me to play with them instead of work on my computer, I force myself to stop and listen. Stop and participate.  Stop and be there with them, in that moment.

Because I chose them.  They didn’t just happen.  I made them on purpose because I wanted them to be here.  I honor that by continuing to choose them every day of their lives.

Pregnancy loss taught me the value of life in all it’s various pieces in a way I had never expected.  It made me love every single minute of every hour of every day I get to be with them.  I left behind an awesome job in the corporate world to be with them because I couldn’t imagine having to choose between a job and the needs of a being I chose to create.

See, I’m not a mother who could ever flippantly call my child a derogatory name or even speak to them in a condescending way.   I’ve watched as friends call their children idiots, a$$holes or worse.  I can’t even fathom wanting to say these things to or about my children and I am nearly certain it is because the beauty of the lives lost before them taught me just how precious the ones who chose to stay really are.

I am a better mother because I was terrible at pregnancy before my two children stayed.  I am a better human because they are my children.

So, yeah, that’s it.  I felt it was time to say some of these things “out loud”.

The more we can say out loud the better, really – so many women experience pregnancy and infant loss silently and it’s just not fair.  The more we can talk about it and share our experiences, the more we can talk about it, share and be open about our own experiences, the better.

If you have suffered an infant or pregnancy loss, please consider sharing your story.  Not only am I certain it will help others who are silently trying to cope with their own grief, it might be amazing catharsis for you, too.