One of the better developments to this terrible stillbirth thing these days is that people have found ways to remember children like Doria. That includes things like us parents having the chance to hold our child and spend time with them until we decide that it’s done. Sure, reality suggests that you don’t want to drag it out, because you don’t want to watch your child’s body deteriorate, but you still make the decision. Hospitals have protocols to take care of the parents, memory packets, they make sure to get footprints made and a lock of your child’s hair (at least Mary Greeley Medical Center did, and they say that the ideas came from other hospitals).
One of the worst parts of the stillbirth experience is the sudden rush to labor and delivery only to walk away with nothing. Too often, you know that going in. They’ve gotten much better over the years and finding ways that don’t eliminate the blow, but at least give you something tangible to take home. The surprising side to these great memory items is that they bring both parts of the memory. They bring smiles and tears at the same time. It’s a reminder of that little girl we love so much, but a reminder that we have a reminder because she’s dead.
Editorial note: Sometimes people are afraid to speak or do something because it might bring up memories of Doria and her passing. Don’t worry about it. That memory is always there. There’s nothing you can do that makes that ‘”worse.” It’s just real, always there right around the surface. Nothing really changes that right now. Don’t worry about it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was experiencing the sort of productivity high that I haven’t seen since Doria’s death. Oh, man, it felt normal. Things were moving, I was flying around, I was getting things done. It was awesome! It really was like being normal! Then, memorial reality struck with the best of intentions. Our history department secretary/lifesaver gave me some great news that (unintentionally) sent the roller coaster in motion.
There is a ministry here in Iowa called Project 52. (Find them here at http://www.p52.org/) They plant trees as memorials to people who passed too soon. Our secretary found out, mobilized the department, and the History Department decided to work with Project 52 and plant a beautiful red maple tree in Doria’s memory. I’ve never cried for a tree before, but I have now. 🙂 Doria is making her mark!
Since we rent, we don’t really have a yard to place this tree. Jennifer (Secretary/lifesaver) and I both had the same idea. Since Becky (amazing wife!) and I are huge Cyclone fans and go to every basketball game our guys play, we’re planting Doria’s tree at Hilton Coliseum, the home of the Cyclones. The trees red and gold leaves conveniently match our Cyclone colors, and we can see it on the way in to every game. A sweet reminder at our favorite place. We’re touched, and we’ve been excited about a tree for roughly 10 days. That’s awesome, and we can’t thank these people enough. Doria is making her mark!
Of course, it wouldn’t be a grief story if things didn’t go crazy. I headed home from the office to go write a paper. I’m usually about a week ahead, but grief slows you down. Now I’m learning what it’s like to race up to deadlines. I don’t think I like it, but that’s where I’m at. Anyway, I had a paper to write, and it’s a different style than I’m used to. I thought that I had overcome my flummoxed state to get this thing done. But, it’s a grief story, and it didn’t work that way. Instead, 3 hours of work took 15 hours of alternating between that productive rush, watching youtube videos of Project 52 tree plantings, crying for a couple hours, writing, rinse and repeat. Apparently, things take longer at this point, and I’m not quite as clear as normal. That paper went almost all the way to the deadline. Instead of the usual edit, it got the “it’s done, I will e-mail it” treatment.
Still, I had a great time presenting that paper for class. We got interactive, and it’s probably the rowdiest paper presentation I’ve seen, at least since my last one. We knocked on tables, it got crazy. It felt very normal. A productively rowdy scholastic discussion. My students would have been proud! Or ashamed. Or embarrassed. It’s hard to tell sometimes.
Through that process, I learned a whole lot about where I’m at, and how this really works. It’s interesting to lose focus now. I’m not used to that. It’s awesome when it comes back, and terrible when it’s gone. When it’s gone, it’s really gone. At the same time, the skills are still there, and still sharpening, so I can see that things are working out. I’m surrounded by amazing people in this department. We’re History with a Heart here at Iowa State. It’s nothing like the picture I ever had of grad school as a younger guy.
So that was up. Today, Jennifer (secretary/lifesaver) and I shot out to Hilton Coliseum. We got to see the spot where Doria’s tree will live and grow in her honor. I even got to pick it. It will be sweet, because it’s a spot you just can’t miss. When the tree grows up, it’ll just about brush up against the large electronic sign that advertises events for the arena. Sweet! It’s a perfect spot! I’ll see it every day on the way to campus, and every time that Becky and I go to games. We plan to attend a volleyball match Wednesday, so I can show Becky where it is.Of course, being Becky, she just found it on the campus map. Awesome! Doria is making her mark!
Returning to the office, I got to see the other side. The Little Baby Death Angel struck again. Someone I know was waiting for me. Word is out about me, which is good, but it just hit his family, too. That’s horrible. If there was anything I could do to keep this from happening again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. That little baby death angel has to stop. Take a break, dude. Find a hobby. Play some XBox or something. Just stop taking little babies. That’s gotten very old.
But, if I can be there for this guy and his family, then Doria is making her mark again. That little girl gets things done!
For anyone who wants it, this is a video of Project 52’s work last year: