Teddy Bear Tins

November 30, 2009

Thanks & Giving

First, I owe some thanks...

...To the many people who made this delivery of Teddy Bear Tins possible. THIRTY-FOUR tins (1 not shown in the picture), and two bags stuffed full of teddy bears. This single delivery was larger than all my previous deliveries put together. St. Luke's has asked me for 90-100 tins to meet their yearly need, and at first I thought it would take me many months to gather enough. Now with these and the previous group I shipped them, we're nearly halfway there already.

...To the three artists who are currently painting tins, including a sweetheart on the opposite side of the earth whose beautiful nephew's spirit shines through in her.

...To the family and friends who spoke Aiden's name to me during the Thanksgiving holiday. For remembering him. For making him a part of the day. For being so welcoming to his parents as they gave of themselves preparing the meal. For surrounding them with the love they need.

...To the dear friend who allows me to openly discuss my current struggle, even when I didn't realize that saying things out loud can be healing.

...To my husband for his wonderful hugs, which I miss terribly while he's out of town.

...And finally to whatever supernatural power it was that convinced me to take my vacation days off from work this week. This tangled ball of nerves has finally had the chance to unravel a bit. Can I take the rest of the year off???

* * *

This past weekend I attempted to accomplish some of my Christmas shopping, since my job will have me on travel for most of the month of December for the second year in a row. And after several hours of semi-success, driving through two states in search of the right deals, I came to a moment where I found myself standing in a shopping mall parking lot in the rain. It was dark, I was tired, and I was frustrated as I dug through the black hole that is my purse in search of I don't even remember what. There were shoppers pouring out of the glass doors at the front of the store, mothers dragging crabby when-can-we-go-home children behind them, averting their eyes from the Salvation Army volunteer ringing his bell, dashing out into the street as cars with equally impatient drivers honked at them, all focused intently on getting to the next store as quickly as possible, checking off the Christmas list just to get it done.

And in a moment of clarity it hit me that I don't want this. I wouldn't wish this insanity on anyone I loved. I find my Christmas joy in giving, I do understand the value of a gift, at least from that side. But I don't understand the value in a need to just be forced to check off our list with whatever random material thing we can come up with that sort of reminds us of something that person likes (or we remember them liking, since we haven't had time to see them all year), that costs roughly the same amount as what we think they'll be spending on us (don't want to over- or under-do it, awkward!), and is located somewhere that we can get to during the rush before December 25th.

I will be happy to find gifts for everyone on my list, to the best of my ability making those gifts meaningful, giving of myself because it makes me happy to make them happy. But in return, my wish for those I love is that they be spared from what the holiday seems to have become. I don't want to be a reason that anyone should find themselves in that scene in the parking lot. This may sound cliche, but hear me out.

Right now, where I'm at following this terrible year, is a place where what I need most is peace. My heart needs it. My soul needs it. I have what I would consider to be a charmed life. My husband and I both have jobs that pay well, we have our big house on a hill in the woods, and when we want to buy something we generally can just go buy it for ourselves. Yet with all of these things I've struggled so hard to be happy, to find peace. In a way that I only partially understood before Aiden touched my life, the "material" in this world is just not important. So many people don't understand.

I know for me that my definition of happiness has changed. I think part of my problem is because I expect happiness to happen in the same way that it used to. I look for happiness in light-hearted silly made-for-tv moments. In times when everything is going perfectly or normally. And this sets me up for failure, because the way I see life now I'm no longer innocent of the imperfections and complications. Something good happens and I can't be happy about it because I'm too distracted by what I know is wrong. For something to get through to me, it's like it has to be at least as powerful as the sadness and pain that I carry around. Goofy material things just don't do it.

So I need to change how I find happiness. And I think the way for me to do that is for me to just let go. To give in to what maybe the universe wants me to do, the path that I can't see where it leads to. I need to serve others. I need Teddy Bear Tins to continue. I need to give, truly give, in order to find peace. Because the gift is in the giving.

So if you want to get me something for the holidays, please instead just support Teddy Bear Tins. Or enjoy a quiet moment remembering Aiden and thinking of his parents. Or reach out to that family you know that has lost a baby and say all of the things that you have been meaning to say. Just please don't let the rush and the things prevent you from finding some peace, from feeling some happiness.

November 19, 2009

Baby Boom

It seems like babies always come in bunches. Just shy of 18 months ago, half of my female coworkers were all in their last trimester. I was surrounded by babies. Then there was mostly quiet, and now again I find myself surrounded by glowing mothers-to-be.

Friends, acquaintances, family. And I think I'm handling it very well.

I'm sure they wonder how I'm doing. I know they tip-toe around me. They are so kind to think of someone else when they have a lot of their own life to focus on right now.

This morning Carly put it so simply, how I feel for these expectant mothers. It's not anger, it's not hurt (well, at least not directly), it's not even really jealousy. ...It's fear, and sadness. Fear that something will go wrong and they and their families will join this miserable club. I do worry myself sick about them. Every happy comment they make, I feel compelled to tell them to remember and hold onto every precious moment. But I hold myself back.

I'm conflicted about whether or not to say anything, to pass on any lessons learned as it were. Because I remember what it was like to not know about this other side. And while I was naive then, did that really make it hurt any more or less in the end? Carly put it so succinctly... These people may be naive, but they are just more innocent than anything else. And innocence lost is innocence lost, regardless of when it happens. So maybe it's just nice to let people keep their innocence, and to pray they can always be that way.

More people should know of the truth of stillbirth, and that the United States has one of the worst rates of infant mortality in the civilized world. This I believe is necessary to have any hope of enacting change. We should not hide this just because it is a difficult topic. To do so is a great disservice to ourselves. I strongly believe that.

But I think it may be OK to let mothers-to-be just be. Even when your heart aches in worry for them.

November 3, 2009

Another Milestone

It's official! As of now I am providing tins to our second hospital, St. Luke's in Bethlehem, PA. Teddy Bear Tins has been approved by their neonatal bereavement board, which is a praise considering just how busy the nurses who staff that board are on a day-to-day basis. I'll be shipping all of the current completed kits to them around Thanksgiving and I can't wait. From that point I'll be working to get more tins painted as I don't have enough yet to meet a year's needs for this hospital. They need 90-100. :( It's hard not to think of what that number represents.

That's all for now. I'm currently hopping around on a bunch of travel for work and I won't find myself home for about a month. Yuck. But at least I can keep myself busy working to gather more volunteer artists. Thank goodness for distractions!