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Seven

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After seven years, July still surprises me, how much it still hurts.

After seven years, we still miss you ever more.

Every July, I awaken with hopeful alertness in the middle of the night. Before I open my eyes to the dark, I will tell myself I need to look sharp, in case I see you, for I am sure you will disappear in a blink and I must imprint that image of you deeply in my heart.

But you never visited, even though I felt so intently that you are close by.

You are so far, and yet so near.

You are our star voyager. Far, far away, we cannot reach. We cannot touch. We cannot hold. We cannot kiss our little boy, and pinch his cheeks,. Yet between us we silently toss you within our hearts, cradling you ever so fiercely yet gently. When we sing, we hope the echoes of our voices reach you wherever you are. When we read, we imagine you must hear the stories too, and marvel with us.

You would have been seven. A child probably all excited about his birthday celebration, thinking balloons, cake and presents. Maybe trucks, maybe fireworks. Perhaps dinosaurs, or spiders, or a treehouse. Mud, ice cream and tadpoles. I do not know, I only imagine.

But I never really try to imagine you as how old you ought to be. You are either the baby whom I held, and did not want to give up to the unknown; or you are the grown-up boy who comes a-knocking on the door, always a dream and forever a fantasy of mine. I think, trying to imagine every year how you ought to be, is just too much for me. I just want to have you tiny to hold, or big to really bear-hug.

July is a month on the calendar, always coming after June, never out of line. Yet it always arrives with a long, hard stab. And then it never fails to be a long month, hot and slow. It is a month of memories. I treasure the time to re-visit all those lovely moments, when we anticipated you. And it is good to have the time and space to sit down and let the tears flow, because the truth is, I do not always allow myself the time or space for tears during other times of the year.

Your sisters, they miss you too. Often wondering how it would have been like to have a brother in their mix. Your littlest sister, she is unaware of you yet. Or is she? I cannot be totally certain. But I have not introduced you to her yet. I wanted to make sure she is old enough that she will not just feel sad and scared, but instead will have a sense of amazement and admiration for the brother whom she never met. Maybe next year. Sometimes I think she will just tell me, “I knew him all along. Ferdinand. Star voyager.”

I have nothing more to say. Still the same things, Ferdinand. We miss you, and we love you, forever more.

the meandering path

Life is busy. For every one. Not a single person would not shake her head and say “Life is so busy!”; “I have no idea where that time went!”; “I just don’t even know what to do first!”

Yes, it is true. I have a busy life too. Or so I think. But when I try to slow things down, really stand still and attempt to make a list of exactly what I have done, I have an almost blank list, nothing much to add to the usual “busy” stuff and getting from one place to another. So I am not sure how I used to be on Facebook (somewhat) regularly, or write all these posts on this blog.

I guess, there was a time when I had no choice but to force upon myself the luxury of grieving. Yes, the luxury. Where you spend the days washing your face with tears, pulling your hair out, shaking your fist at the sun, and all bright beautiful days, searching for and putting together broken pieces. Everything fell to the wayside. The house crumbled, the yard went insane, and homeschooling went out of the window. Instead I read every book on stillbirth that I could lay my hands on. I crawled through the internet, seeking information: I needed both an explanation and an accurate forecast for the next pregnancy. I read blogs like crazy, with a feverish urgency to connect with others who have experienced similar losses, who could understand my broken heart.

And I started this blog.

And then I neglected it.

The frequency of posts on this blog has plummeted. What does this mean? 500 years later, when an internet archaeologist chanced upon my blog and run his proverbial magnifying glass over the debris of my blog, what will he think? Will he classify this under the category “experienced loss and then moved on”? Or perhaps “Time heals all wounds”? Or “Signifies death of blogs; age of Twitter”?

Well, yes, I have moved on.  There is no choice but to move on since there is no going back- don’t I wish I could go back and change everything?!

I have not forgotten, but the scab does form over the wound, and yes, life gets busy again (full-time grieving can only be a short-term luxury), and the mind gets distracted. But my heart still aches. I still cannot raise my head and look at a star without thinking of my little star voyager. I still sometimes when opening the car trunk or a cabinet will think I may see a shriveled up baby in a bundle, forgotten by his terribly neglectful mother.

Most of the time, it is the struggling and healing process after that comes to my mind most. It is just too painful to go back to that day. So, when I was approached by Janel Atlas to contribute a chapter to the book They Were Still Born, I wondered how I would tell my story. Much as I knew it would be a difficult writing process, I was eager to write it, to add my voice to the stories of loss, hoping that someone will hold my words in her hands and nod her head vigorously, and perhaps, find a glimmer of hope after.

Writing my piece plunged me viscerally back to the event itself: the shock, disbelief, the searing pain of saying goodbye forever, and then turning around and realizing that no matter how hard, one has to trudge on. As such, I chose to write my piece in third person, thinking it would distance myself from the pain, and also attempting to view my personal story from a distance. I had also hope that, by not giving the grieving mother a name and a face, that others reading the story will be able to identify with it better, and feel that their story could have easily fit in there, and that the hope and healing could be theirs too. However, writing in third person did not make it easier, because it still did not allow me to dissociate my past self with my present self. They are still very much the same person. In writing my piece, I also read back to my blog posts close to the horrific experience, and I winced and flinched at the flooding of strong emotions. Also I felt I used so many words!! So many exclamation marks!! So, I decided to scale back. Used minimal words, and refrained from a direct telling of the emotions experienced by “the woman” but to let the story unfold by itself, to let the reader fill in the details and experience the emotions for themselves. I imagined it was a silent movie and the reader would choose the soundtrack that they preferred and changed the scenery as they like. It was an endeavor to distill everything down to a somewhat skeletal story so that every reader can tailor it to their own experience, their own stories, and yet be able to identify with the events, the same shock, disbelief, pain, and healing… and know that it is truly possible, since she had done it.

However, I have to be truthful. Janel told me to contribute the story of my stillbirth and I simply took it to mean- how did it happen, what was it like? So, when I finally received my copy of the published book (!!) and read through it, my initial reaction was that of dismal. The book is a rich collection of stories, but it was not exactly what I expected. There were more ruminations, reflections and spurs to action. It felt like every other writer was more intelligent and thoughtful, and more able to analyze their experience and delineate what the path of healing may look like. I thought to myself, “Oh my goodness! All I wrote was the event and nothing more! I could have added more intelligent analysis and all that! But now it is too late…. this must be the dumbest piece in the whole collection.”

Yet, I was thankful for the experience and grateful to be included so my story can be told. I hoped it would help someone else understand the experience, and know that re-birth is possible. And I was so proud of the book, not just a collection of wonderful stories, but also with an informative section. I had read so many books on stillbirth but seen nothing like this; a book that could offer emotional solace and also empowering information. I almost burst with pride that I could have something in such a book, that I felt sure was going to make a difference to every grieving family who had experienced a stillbirth. Surely they would find a voice or story in the collection that they can identify with, and feel they have informative resources that would enable them to move on confidently.

But would I change my essay given the opportunity? Probably not. It feels now that my piece in the book is like a piece of the puzzle. If I change my piece, I would also change the shape of the puzzle and it would not fit nicely anymore. But I guess it would also depend on the feedback from those who have read the book- if they say, that was an odd piece, then I probably would write something else, because ultimately what I wish to contribute is not just my story, but a step to healing. However, if the publisher would establish a companion page to They Were Still Born, allowing the contributing writers to update on their grieving process, or where they are now in terms of healing, I would be happy to contribute. Life is a meandering path as it is, and it is human nature to wish to see ahead, to find a glimmer of guidance, to know that by putting one foot in front of another and keeping one’s chin up, there will be golden days ahead. Knowing that many others walk this meandering path is a comfort, and bolsters one’s courage. It may not make a big difference, but every little small thing can be amplified when you feel lonely in your grief and darkness.

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How about you? Do you think you have left the path of grief? Do you still have the urge to post on your blog, or connect with fellow babylost mothers?

I miss you all and hold you all in my heart.

 

::: <<<<  When humans could not understand, myths were born.    >>>> ::::

 

starry night sky photo: Starry sky :) _IGP0399-PBEdit.jpg

Image by mickl22

 

At the beginning of time, the Star Weaver tipped her pot and blanketed the dark night with twinkling stars.

And then the people were no longer scared of the long nights.

They looked up, and they pointed and they told stories about the stars.

The Star Weaver sat, her hair billowing in the gentle night breeze, and she listened to the fantastic stories.

And she began to move and arrange the stars so they became like actors on a stage, lined as they should as stories unfold.

And the people were happy and comforted, for their stories could now be repeated, and their sons and daughters pointed to the same stars, and told the same stories to their sons and daughters.

But the stars grew restless, they did not like staying in constellations. They fidgeted, slipped away, and made mischief.

And people began to get confused.

The Star Weaver created Star Voyagers, picked from the purest of the celestial beings, to travel amongst the stars, to coax them back in place.

One of the Star Voyagers wore winged boots and carried a lyre with him. He would sing soothing songs to the stars and they all loved him.

One day this Star Voyager slipped and he fell through the night, carried by the whisper of an earthly woman, and he fell into her womb. For she had raised her head in the deep of the night and wished for a child. He was not sure how that happened, and neither did that woman. But it did not take long for their hearts and souls to connect.

The Star Voyager’s time on earth was a wonderful one. He was full of curiosity and every day was filled with amazing discoveries.

But soon he began to yearn to be back with the stars high up in the skies again. He knew he has his duties to fulfill and if there were chaos amongst the stars the people may be fearful again. Sadly, he bid his earth mother, his earth father, and his earth sisters good-bye.

Oh, how heart-breaking was the farewell! There were so many tears and his earth mother felt she would die from grief.

The Star Weaver took pity on the earth mother. She plucked a star and place it on the Star Voyager’s lyre, so that she may always know where her star-child is, when she cast her eyes up to the sky, in search of her Star Voyager.

And so, to this day, the Star Voyager continues to travel across the starry sky, carrying his lyre with a star on it, and every night he sends love down to his earth mother, and earth father, and earth sisters.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

My dear Star Voyager,

you are ever so missed.

And loved.

And that is all.

Love,

your earth mama

July

I know it is coming just like someone with arthritis feels the chill in the bones.

The air feels denser and oppressive. It is always too hot and the days seem long and annoying. I ache, and my mood plunge.

It is not that I do not feel the grief at other times of the year. I do, unpredictable as it has become. But as time wore on, grief wears softer, like an old T-shirt washed many times, its fibers all soft and forgiving, and one reaches out and puts it on without much deliberation.

But in July, the grief is always jarring, demanding attention. And I have to abide- literally wilting under the glare of its hot stare.

It is uncomfortable, because at other times I hardly talk about Ferdinand anymore, except with those in the circle.

Yet it is comforting in an odd way, knowing that my body instinctively remembers.

The time is here again, when my mind swims with memories, stars, ruby shades and disbelief. My body aches all over and my world seems to warp in dangerous ways that threatens to shatter.

I open the door to a dusty, empty room. I sit, and I wait. Perhaps he will knock.

 

“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” ~ A.A. Milne

 

growing old is a privilege

Somebody wise said that once, and I totally agreed.

Which is why I was rather sane when I turned 40 yesterday. I was OK. I did not freak out, or go out to buy one hundred pairs of shoes, as R feared I may. I did not look up plastic surgery of any sort. I patted my soft little middle aged belly and took a second helping of the chocolate hazelnut cake that comes from an amazing, small Romanian bakery, giving thanks to their existence and contemplated begging for an internship. Or just to lick the bowls.

It is a privilege to grow old, to add another digit to my number of living years. My birthday is so close to Thanksgiving it is hard to not feel grateful when it rolls around. I am glad to be alive and surrounded by my immediate family, I am glad to be able to cook and clean and breathe with them, to watch the girls grow and to hear the garage door grunt open every evening when R comes home from work. I am glad to be able to shiver with cold and mutter bitter complaints when I go out in this chilly weather. I finally understand why the sun was worshiped.

But I am not wise yet.

I still think, why can’t he be here too? Why not give me one more thing to be grateful for? I still hated it when the server at the French restaurant gushed about our three beautiful girls. How grateful I felt! And yet how I hated the convenience of the phrase “three girls”! I sat and wondered, if there was one boy in the mix, how would those strangers have expressed their admiration? Or perhaps they would be dismayed that I was robbing the world of more resources than I ought to. Maybe they think I have nothing better to do but to stuff the landfill with more stinky diapers. Perhaps someone will say, “How do you do it with four kids?!”, with an underlying note of hysteric. And I only wonder, How do I do it without my missing child?

Nothing to do but to move on, and deal with the silent ache.

And the worst thing is knowing that S is still missing her little brother. Recently I stumbled across a page in her drawing journal and saw that she had drawn a picture, with a sign that said “Lost Siblings”, then a stand with a girl sitting there, a sign over her head saying “Questions ask here” and on the ground is an oval, in the oval a boy with wings, shedding fat tears, his word bubble declaring, “I miss my family!”

Don’t we all miss you too, Ferdinand! How I wish you were here. I mean physically here.

:::

My dear friends, thank you if you still read here. I apologize for the scant internet presence. I vow that one day I will go back to my Reader again, and catch up. This is my precious little corner, where I can come and shed all the tears I want, and I am forever thankful for all of you who had listened and offered comforting words. I think, if you have not done that, I am not sure I would have lived to write about my 40th birthday (which was actually pretty uneventful). While my priorities have changed, your place in my heart haven’t. If you would like to exchange snail-mail with me, please contact me! Otherwise, I am sure one day we will meet again.

this is what it is

Hold onto what is good
even if it is a handful of earth.
Hold onto what you believe,
even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold onto what you must do
even if it is a long way from here
Hold onto life
even when it is easier to let go.
Hold onto my hand
even when I have gone away from you.
~Peublo verse
 

Often it is the wisdom of others, filtered through centuries of tears and hearts, that speaks best for me.

I hold on to what is good, I will never forget my gratefulness of the quiet support I have gotten here.

I hold on to what I believe. One day he will come a-knocking.

I’ve held on to life, and continue my journey inward to find the core of my core.

I hold on to your hand, my sweet child, even though you are away.

I never let go, I never will.

Happy 5th, Ferdinand

Five years.

I have nothing fresh to say. No new insights. No fresh relevations. No wisdom to share. I have walked but have not veered onto a new path. There are no shortcuts, no new vistas, little consolation.

To be fair, time does slowly exert her effects of a slow numb. Life inevitably piles on distractions so you sometimes forget about the wound a little. At times, the memory will seem so distant you feel you are looking through a frosted glass to a movie on the other side, the story of another, but not of yours. The screams muffled, the contours blurred. Only when the movie on the other side has ended will you realize you have your hand over your heart, throbbing and aching.

I still miss him, terribly much. But I do not always find the time or space on a daily basis to remember. I still experience disbelief. I still sometimes look around and wonder, where is he? Where are you? I still have the illusion that I have somehow absent-mindedly misplaced him, somewhere.

This is the first year we spend his birthday out of the country. Here, everyone wants us to forget and forge on. They want us to be whole again and to stop hurting. I did not make a cake, it is just impossible to swallow. Instead, I made a donation in Ferdinand’s honor to the Tibet Water Project to bring clean water to one of the poorest parts of Tibet. He was born dry. I hope others get to enjoy clean fresh water in his honor.

I am seeing a delayed grief response in S. She was almost four when Ferdinand was born, and did not fully grasp what was going on. I have seen her experience very intense emotions last year and this. She even wrote a story that to me was her effort to make reason of what had happened. Needless to say, it broke my heart. But there is nothing to do but to roll with the punches. I just hope she can find closure faster than I do.

I wish I were a better shiny example of how to walk this path, but here I am, just trudging on.

How we miss and love you, Ferdinand. Happy Birthday, our brave little star voyager! I am sure you are twinkling at us right this very second. We love and miss you, forever.

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