Thursday, May 22, 2008

So You Know What’s Been Happening … but How Are We Doing?

I've been describing events that have been happening, but haven't said much about how the family is doing. (I should say up front that this is my take on things; Laurie may have a different perspective.)

We are coping best we can with all that has happened since the beginning of the month but it is challenging as you might imagine. So much to absorb—like a truck ran over you and then backed up and the driver (who looks strangely like Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons) said "HA! HA!" and did it again.

We're adjusting to life with two children as best we can. Brady is also adjusting to life with a sibling; overall I think he's doing okay. I think about what it would be like if he had two sisters right now. Both parents would be holding a twin and there would be no lap for him to climb up in. He would really feel left out. So are there small silver linings in the dark cloud that has enveloped our life these past few weeks? Maybe... but I would give anything not to be stumbling around in the dark abyss of grief right now searching for any kind of light.

As you can imagine, Laurie is quite exhausted after this ordeal. She went through major surgery to deliver the girls via Caesarian Section and had virtually no recovery time before having to leave the hospital to deal with Hope's death. There was obviously very little time to relax in the week leading up to the funeral. On top of all that, women typically get baby blues a couple weeks after delivery anyway which can make you feel down, and it is compounded by her grief over Hope. And then she has to be up every night nursing Becca, which is always hard and makes her physically exhausted. She is acutely aware of how little time she has for herself while caring for two children—I certainly relate to that. What she would love is just some time to be by herself so she can breathe and start to process what just happened to us—I relate to this too. She just hasn't had much time to do that these past couple weeks and she is struggling because of it. We've gone from one thing to the next and now the funeral is behind us, but we still have two children to deal with day after day. There's just no time to grieve; and yet we have to make time for it…

I am also tired out from everything that has transpired and because I'm tired, I have very little patience for the "perfectly normal" behavior of a 2-year old right now. It just seems like every action we try and get Brady to do is contested—e.g., bedtime takes forever it seems. I just wish he would be a little more obedient right now. He's testing us and seeing what we will tolerate, etc—typical for a 2-year old. He's been hitting and slapping—no doubt learned at daycare from other kids—and we're definitely trying to nip that in the bud. We've been using time out to discipline him but sometimes he thinks it is fun to go to timeout and thinks it is more like a joke. Sometimes you are trying to discipline him and having to keep from cracking up laughing at what he does.

I think I just need an extra dose of patience right now. I have to keep in mind that he's adjusting to life with Becca and he can also sense our stress over a new baby and the loss of our daughter. He doesn't fully understand what happened but he knows mommy and daddy are not "normal" right now. He may be acting out a bit to get our attention and regressing in places as is typical for toddlers adjusting to a new sibling. My rational brain knows all this and tries to keep it in mind, but sometimes when I am in the middle of things, when I'm at my wits end trying to get Brady to listen and do what he needs to do, I start to lose my cool and take it out on the kids, and this is what I need to avoid.

I went back to work this week—there wasn't really much choice to take off any longer. As far as I am concerned, my company didn't really do well by me in this situation. They gave me three days Bereavement Leave and zero days Paternity Leave, which basically means I had to burn through all my Universal Leave (which combines Vacation and Sick into one pool) and take some Leave Without Pay through Family and Medical Leave Act so that I could take the last two weeks and two days off—the first week being consumed with funeral preparations and the second being for the sake of our families mental health.

I don't mean to vent against my company. Actually, I think my company has done well by me, and has decent benefits, but I don't feel they responded well in this particular unique circumstance. I think what was frustrating was that it came across as kind of cold and heartless. Upper management just said: "Sorry for your loss; we sympathize, but rules are rules." There didn't seem to be any flexibility to react to a specific unique circumstance that an employee faced. They seemed to think only of their bottom line—i.e., I think Bereavement is charged directly to the company, not the government customer so in their mind, three days was more than generous.

I don't want to seem ungrateful. I truly appreciate the three days they gave me for Bereavement, I really do. I just didn't feel like it was enough. My company can take solace in the fact that what they did was "comparable to what other companies do" if they wish, but I feel that "what other companies do" is not really the point in this situation, it's more "what is the right thing to do for your employee?" The fact I couldn't even have a week to grieve my daughter's death without having to think about how it impacts my Universal Leave balance added more stress to my life and made an already impossibly difficult situation even worse.

So the bottom line is that I have next to no leave left for summer vacation—which we need more than ever right about now. I'll manage to take some days this summer (I can go negative and make up the time if I need to) but I feel like the company had the ability to help me more than they did, and chose not to. I'd like to think I deserved a bit more consideration after seven years working for this contract—two different companies have had it since I started.

So overall how are we doing? I'd say we are coping the best we can given what we have been though. We certainly are people of faith and we lean on God to keep going forward, but the trouble is that you have trouble reconciling the events of the past couple weeks with a loving God and there are times when you are tempted to blame God for what has happened. So the very person you need to cling to, you feel anger towards. It's normal to feel this way given what we've gone through, but it makes you feel conflicted within. You know in your head the theological argument that God does not cause suffering. We know all the textbook answers: God is not sitting up there dreaming up ways to make our lives difficult; God loves us more than we can imagine; God is working for the good of those who love us. But then you ask God: Okay, if you love us so much, why did you allow us to go through all this hell? If God is all powerful and working for the good of those who love him, why didn't he protect us from having to go through all this?

The irony is that when Laurie and I started this whole process to have a second child, all we wanted was one sibling for Brady, and at the end of the whole journey, that is what we ended up with. But if two children was what was supposed to be the "end result", then why did the road have to involve miscarriage and losing a twin? I know we might never know the answer, but you can't help but ask the question. It has been said that, "Hardship trains us;" if that's true, I must be in boot camp right now. Maybe some day the "why this was all necessary" will make sense, or perhaps it prepares me for something that is coming down the road that simply having a second child with no complications would not have done. I have to believe it not all just "random crappy stuff" dreamed up by a capricious God to make my life a living hell. Yet sometimes, you waiver in just how sure you are about that...

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