Thursday, May 26, 2011

Right Where I Am: One Year, Four Months and 17 Days

This post is part of an amazing project started by Angie for the babyloss community. Check out her post to see what it's all about, and follow us on the path.


January of 2010 was the beginning of my new life. When we found out Calla had died, I stopped understanding language for a short while; when they told me I'd have to deliver a dead baby, I couldn't make those words work in a sentence together. When C told me it was really real, I knew it was true, because he would never lie to me, but, again, it didn't compute.

After she died I never thought I'd smile, or be happy, or be a whole person ever again. I remember coming home and posting something on FB, only because everyone there knew I was pregnant, and I couldn't bear anyone asking about the baby. I remember crying myself to sleep, crying myself awake in the morning, crying in the shower, the bathroom, the car, while doing laundry . . . I just knew I'd never smile or be happy again. How could I?

I was totally wrecked in so many ways. I'd pushed my dead daughter out of my body--how could I ever forgive my physical self for that? I remember saying some crazy things in the hospital, things about all that work, getting fat, being in pain, for nothing. Looking back I almost feel ashamed. But in those moments, it was my truth. I felt cheated and stung and I didn't know how to process what was happening.

C said it perfectly, that no one should know what it feels like to hold their dead child.

In fact, I don't really remember wanting to be happy at all. I couldn't eat, I could barely sleep, I hated myself, my brain and my body. I drank. A lot. I bought tons of clothes I didn't need and didn't fit into, but those packages arriving every day were a distraction from the knife in my throat.  C and I would go out to dinner, and I would squeeze myself into some semblance of a normal outfit. We'd cry. Just look across the table at each other and shake our heads and drop our eyes.


We also had E. Who, at the time, was 18 months old. Which meant I couldn't just stay in bed all day, no matter if I wanted to or not. And while I hesitate to place all my happiness on my child, he truly saved me. I do not say that lightly. He needed me to be his mother, even though I was desperately sad. And so I acted like his mother, showed up, played trucks. Amazingly, just by acting like a normal mother again helped me almost feel like one again, eventually.

So where am I now?

That's a difficult question for me to answer. In so many ways, in a much better place. One day, a few months out from Calla's birth, I laughed. Really, really hard. I don't remember at what, but I instantly felt both guilty and relieved. To be honest, hardcore grieving is exhausting work. Necessary and inevitable work. And that laugh was building up for a long time. After that I laughed a little more, more often, all while still being bone-deep devastated.

Also, I became pregnant with our third child, baby O, just two months after Calla died and was born. And their birthdays are exactly 10 months apart. To the day. Which is . . . an emotional challenge. So 2010 was a year-long adventure in grief, anxiety, disbelief, heartbreak and joy.

Much like the rest of my life is shaping up to be.

Right now, I work on balancing my sadness with the happiness in my life. It feels like I think of Calla nearly every minute of every day. People tell me all the time that baby O looks so much like his older brother. Calla was a dark/curly-haired girl, but I wonder if those dark curls would have given way to shiny blonde hair like E.  I wonder what my life would be like with one truck-loving three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who is so into . . . what?

It makes me sad that she's not here with us. It makes me deliriously happy that baby O is here, he made it here safely, he brings so much joy to our lives. It makes me confused, often, that this is my life.  It hurts when people refer to O as our "second." It makes my heart feel warm when someone talks about Calla, asks how I'm doing, lets me know I'm not the only person who remembers her.

I remember those early, dark days after Calla's birth with a mix of dread and, well, possibly fondness? Only because I was closer to her, closer to the rawness of her birth then. We are moving forward as a family, and while we all get older and evolve, she'll always be a bitty baby. That's a hard truth for me.

But overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death. Her death will always be a terrible part of my history. I will love and miss her forever. But she's a part of our family, in a way I never could have imagined. I can laugh again. I can eat again. I find joy in every day, probably more now than ever before. I am not a perfect parent, despite my best efforts.

Emotionally, I am beginning to heal. And healing does not mean "getting over it" or forgetting her. It just means, to me, that I can look at the butt ruffle on a pink baby swimsuit without hyperventilating. I can look at the older boy/younger girl families and not want to run into traffic. But like I said, I'm still at the beginning. So many everyday-life-type things bring the tears flooding back; somedays a sparkly sneaker is all it takes to send me diving under the covers. And yet, that's okay, too.

So much love to any and all who walk this path, no matter where you may be. Know that I'm holding your hand along the way, and please hold mine back.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Love You Forever

Tonight I did something I've been putting off for nearly three years: I read E Love You Forever. Now, this has long been a favorite of mine, but an absolute KILLER to read and sing. And then tonight I learned this book was born from Robert Munsch and his wife having two dead babies. Cue the waterworks.

But lately E has been acting very THREE. Whining, yelling, doing things he knows better than to do. And I feel like I'm constantly correcting and redirecting. I thought it was time for this book. I will love him forever, and like him for always. And as long as I'm living, my baby he'll be.

Tonight I am tired from a hard workout, tired from a long day after a long night of little sleep. But this tired is so much better than being tired from crying all night. Even so, I am missing my baby girl. I am loving my little boys.

Ah, this life.

To all my babies, I will love you forever. Wherever you may be, whether I can sneak into your rooms at night and rock you, or sit by your stone and cry. I will love you all forever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Minute to Breathe

Right now I'm nursing a wicked headache that started with blurred, or rather, loss of vision and is finishing with nausea. And also deja vu, as I had this same headache at the end of the day on Mothers' Day. Yay.

I have been really slacking here. I mean, I know that no one's waiting around their Reader for BING! A new naptime confessional post to pop up, but it's that whole continue-what-you-start thing.  Baby O is a hugger, he needs to be held, quite a bit. Which is delightful, but not conducive to typing, or, well, cohesive thoughts. C and I have started a strict no-computer-after-kids-go-to-bed policy. And every other free minute I have is devoted to cooking, or cleaning, or running, or boxing, or yoga, or maybe even sleep.

But there's been a bit going on, you know? I've been sharing a lot of grief talk with my therapist, who walks me through. It feels a bit indulgent--HEY! let's talk about me me me!--but necessary.  I still can't believe, some days, that this is my life. In the past few weeks I've run into two separate people from my old life. Neither of whom I'd seen since I was pregnant with Calla. And it was  . . . okay? With one I didn't get into the story. She said, "Oh, is this the baby?" And I thought to myself, "Well, he's A baby, but not the one you're thinking of!" I let her do the complicated math in her head. If I see her again I'll explain, but it was in a doctor's office and it wasn't the right time.

I saw the other friend in the park. I was packing the giant double stroller into my trunk after running with the boys. Both of them were already in the car, and she spotted me from across the road. "Hey!' she called to me, "what did you end up having?"

Um, my worst nightmare come true? A year from hell? Two babies, one live, one dead?

So I waved her over and told her the story. Her daughter is my age and pregnant with her, well, I'll say second baby, but she's had miscarriages since her first. Oh. This pregnancy thing can be so fraught. Anyway, she was sad for me, but she understood. She told me of her best friend from years ago who had a full term stillbirth, how that friend, earlier in the day at her baby shower was uneasy, who had the operator interrupt her phone call and was hysterically sobbing on the line, calling from the hospital.

You don't get it I guess until, sadly, you do.

I talk with my therapist about all the little things that, to maybe anyone else, would seem stupid, or whiny, or ungrateful. Like how the frilly Easter dresses make my heart leap into my throat. How the tiny dancers in pastel tutus in the dance recital leave me crying in the dark auditorium. How the mother with her boy and girl, older than my children but spaced how E and Calla would have been, takes me out of the present and into my head. How any number of seemingly insignificant, material, impossible things in any day litter this path, sometimes shoving mountain-sized hurdles in my way.

It's all those woulda-shoulda-couldas. The what-ifs, and what-nows. The bullshit no one wants to hear when you have two beautiful, healthy, happy, wonderful, living boys in your arms. You have all this and still you want more?

And sometimes, when I can be brutal with myself--or maybe it's kindness--I do look at my life and wonder why it's not enough. Because, truly it is. My boys are enough. C is enough. I have everything I could ever want.

Except. I want my little girl too. And for that I will never, ever apologize. I don't care if that's selfish. I don't care if it's greedy. It is not ungrateful.

So. I'll end with this thought. Without rehashing, last year sucked. I look at pictures of myself and every one is the face of anxiety. I was a nervous wreck nearly constantly. But you know what? Baby O is as happy as I was anxious. He laughs and smiles at everything--big belly laughs, too. And he thinks E is the  best, saving his loudest laughs just for him.

I am so sad, and I am so happy, and I am so devastated, and I am so lucky.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mothers' Day, Year Three

This is my third Mothers' Day celebrating as a mother. Well, technically my fourth, as E was born a month after MD three years ago.  And looking back on last year's, erm, celebration, this year is far different. Last year on this day, we had snow, and wind, and I ran a 4 mile race that sucked, except running with my best friend and her kiddos in the stroller made it a bit fun. But overall, I freaking hated that day.

Last year on Mothers' Day I wanted to spend the day in bed. I didn't want to go anywhere near it. I felt other, different, alien in a world of happiness when I was so very, deeply sad. It felt like no one could possibly understand why the day might be hard for me.  My baby had died but 4 months earlier, to the day, and yet it seemed I was supposed to have gotten over it.

This year, I have a six-month-old-tomorrow little dude celebrating with the almost-three-year-old and me, and C. And I am so very much in love. It is sunny and warm, and maybe, just maybe, we can start to believe spring is on its way to our corner of the Earth at last. I have laughed today at the absurdities of life. I have kissed and hugged my two boys all day. I went on a nice date with C last night and am still feeling warm and fuzzy and loved. Somehow, just 365 days later, I look and can act (mostly) like a normal person.

And yet. This day will always be a reminder (as though I would ever forget) of just how much we have lost, despite our rich life.  Part of me will resent this holiday forever, the contrived feeling, the sometimes forcing of smiles and niceness, when all I want to do is cry. How dare I want to scream and wail when I have such wonderful children alive in my arms? 

Who knew you could still have mom guilt for a baby you never even got the chance to parent? It occurred to me that I've done so physically little to honor Calla's memory. No fundraising foundation. No letter-writing campaign. No 5k memorial run.  All I have is a hole in my heart, some pictures and a beautiful box, an urn of ashes I can't bring myself to scatter.  Last year it was all I could do to merely survive, preserve my sanity through my pregnancy with O; anything more seemed impossible.

This is my year. The year for tending her stone in the cemetery, for telling her story to the boys, for living without her while still living.

Mothers' Day, happy or not, easier or anxiety filled--my love to you all, wherever you may be on this path.