Thursday, July 23, 2015

5 years later...

I figured I write an entry since it's been long overdue and I've been thinking about it a lot lately since 5 years have passed. A lot can happen in five years, especially the growth of a child. Laura would be at that age now where she could carry out conversations, express her feelings and like her family history of sports was destined to be, would probably even be playing softball by now as well. She would've already have had her second open heart surgery and prospectively would have been a healthy five year old. But all of that never happened, and never will happen. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I was about half way through my paramedic class. As the class progressed, I became bigger and bigger. Ultimately, I was at the point where doing hospital time for my paramedic was over ruled by my large pregnant belly and exhaustion from working many hours, including weekly doctor appointments with all sorts of specialists. So, the plan was to put hospital time on hold until after Laura was home and healthy. After going through a medical nightmare with Laura and watching CPR being performed on my own infant daughter, everything I learned in paramedic school (anything medical in general), was blocked from my brain. Nothing made sense to me. All knowledge of cardiology, respiratory, medications, etc. just drained from my memory. My brain put up a strong wall blocking all knowledge of emergency medicine. With the help from a few people, I was able to get an extension to finish my time. However; finishing paramedic school was not at the top of my to-do list after losing a child. Neither was learning.... Nor studying.... Nor working...... Nor anything for that matter. It took a good two years or so to fully regain my love for EMS. Finally, 4 years later, I enrolled in paramedic school again, nervous about completing something I once started. It was like learning everything all over again. Just shy of 5 years post Laura's birth, I finished something I started. Such a large milestone for me to finish something I had one lost interest in and thought I would never have the drive to finish. In June of 2015, I finally obtained my paramedic license after so many internal fetes. 

One thing I have learned about my grieving process is the mind's ability to block out memories; to store them on the back burner to protect myself. The first couple of years after Laura passed ate me alive. I lived with constant flashbacks and nightmares every single night and physical pain brought on by the mental pain. Then, my mind learned to put those memories into storage. Yes, every day situations or items or sounds may trigger a memory or two but luckily I'm able prevent the avalanche of memories pouring over me. Once the avalanche starts, it's nearly impossible to stop it. The memories engulf me, tear at me and leave me wanting to run from the painful memories in my head. But there's no escaping them. It's best to just bunker down and cry it out and hopefully awaken with enough strength to pull myself out of bed.  The problem though, many people unless faced with a similar event, don't know what it's like to still feel so much emotional pain years later. My world stopped turning on July 22nd 2010 and has not been the same since, whereas everyone else continues with his/her daily routine. No one around me would understand if I called out of work because "I couldn't get out of bed." It's one of the toughest things to do when I'm engulfed in sadness...  I don't post as much about Laura to social media anymore. Not because I've "moved on" but because the world expects me to move on. Because people don't want to read about depressing post. Yes I still post stuff occasionally. It may offend some people or sound "depressing," but just remember: to you, it may only hurt or bother you a couple of minutes. To me, it hurts: Every. Single. Day. 

"Do you have any kids?" Is by far the toughest question I face. The amount of guilt and sadness and anger with myself I feel bears down on me. Sounds like an easy enough question to answer; "yes, I have one" but the conversations never ends there. It's usually followed by, "how old?" Or "boy or girl" or people your around everyday reference to "does your child do (this) or (that)" etc... Etc.. How do you answer those questions honestly and avoid bringing up the death of your child? May sound easy but it's not. As ashamed as I am to admit, I always answer "no." No, I'm not trying to hide the fact I indeed have a daughter in heaven. No, I will not break into a million pieces talking about my daughter. I have found it's easier to say no, it's the safer way to go. It tears me apart to say "no." It's eats at me for the rest of the day. But mostly, I say "no" to protect the person asking, to avoid an uncomfortable situation. A lot of people become uncomfortable when I talk about the death of my baby. They think I'll break into a millions pieces. It's a taboo subject. Maybe someday, I learn to say "yes" and be comfortable with people's uncomfortableness and awkwardness of the situation. I may be "strong" as I'm often told but I feel as though I am not as "strong" as everyone thinks. Not enough until I can say, "yes, I have a daughter."

Dating after losing Laura was tough at first. I felt guilty "having fun" in general, but to be dating a guy was on a whole new level. Initially, I felt selfish. Like falling in love with someone else was taking from Laura. But then, I met Patrick. I told Patrick when we first started talking about having a daughter in heaven, before we started dating and from that day forward, he always makes sure he includes Laura. Such an amazing young man to talk about Laura and how he would've raised her as if she was his own. The first Christmas  we were together in our apartment, I came home from work on Christmas Eve to Laura's stocking full of stuffed animals and knick-knacks associated to Laura. I looked over at Patrick and there he was, standing there with a huge smile on his face! Tears rushed to my eyes and from that moment on, I knew he was a keeper. Having him by my side really helps me get through the tough times, for he can sense when I'm tensed and with ease, he makes me laugh, every time. 

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from Laura, is to live life to the fullest. Life can be so fragile and can change in a heart beat. You may think, "something like that will never happen to me." That is what I thought all those years growing up, watching all of my medical shows and situations in which parents face devastating news about their child. But it did. A disease so rare, in fact, it took my daughter. I've learned that spending time with friends and family is what means the most. You can't go back in time to re-live what you have missed, so enjoy it while it's here. Yes I still have bad days, but I've seen rock bottom and I know what it feels like to feel so empty and dark and incomplete inside. I never want to be in that dark place again so I've learned to fill my life with friends and family and things that make me happy. I set goals so when I accomplish them, I get further and further from that dark mindset I lived in after Laura passed away.

 I've developed a love for CrossFit. Not just because I like lifting weights and fitness means a lot to me but because of the burn and the pain and hard work associated with CrossFit. I have often felt numb, as if I lived in a fog and watched my life like a fly on the wall. I would occasionally rent sad movies or movies involving baby loss and feed into those feelings. But since starting CrossFit, during the workouts, I'm reminded that I can feel the burn and I am in fact very much alive and not just "observing" life. CrossFit has given me a purpose to push myself and to set goals and to clear my mind. Besides, what better way than to relieve stress and sadness with lifting weights and cardio?

I think about Laura every day. Sometimes good memories and sometimes bad memories. I can't help but imagining what a beautiful 5 year old she would be. I imagine being able to see her one more time and a little, beautiful, brown-haired girl, with her white angelic dress, running into my arms. It gives me such warmth and pure happiness to have these envisions. And I only hope, "I'll see you again someday"