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Archive for June, 2011

joy and sorrow, how to tell

My dear friends,

you have always been here but invisible. It was with Ferdinand’s death that you and your worlds became visible to me. I realized that every day, mothers’ hearts are broken, bent over their babies they will not get to see grow up. Though we may never meet, you have made life after so much more bearable, even beautiful. You are not just company, but also comfort and inspiration. Once again, I thank you.

I need your help here. I have been contacted by a mother whose daughter will only get to keep one of her twins. I know some of you know this story well, and I understand how going back to the beginning of the story once again must hurt. So I appreciate any way you can help. M will have two grand-children, both names starting with L. One is a boy and one will be a girl. Baby girl L may not get to breathe life outside her mother’s womb, while baby boy L is looking healthy. M is wondering about the announcements and how to go about it. I am also wondering about any support sites or groups out there for their circumstances.

Your ideas, suggestions and experiences are going to be most useful and deeply appreciated.

 

Much love and gratitude,

Janis

 

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encounters

So my family made it over to New York. It is all big changes, it feels very different. The light, the abundance of trees, the rain we have been getting, the roads, the building, the people. Not exactly strange and foreign, but very different.

It had been most insane and and we are not arriving at sane any time soon.

Often, of course, we troop out and people look us over, size us up, and help us count our children and ascertain their gender, and then inform us, “You have three girls!” Every morning I look and I count, and yes, I have three girls. And a boy, Ferdinand.

We just nod and smile and say nothing. They like to tell us they have three too, but all boys, or that they have one more- four girls! We nod and smile some more.

Last Saturday we have a very nice, retired couple come into our temporary apartment. They had been sent on an assignment to put together the girls’ bunk bed. Somehow our movers did not pack the hardware, they were nowhere to be found, so the company sent out this couple, who specialize in things like that (and also repairing anything that movers had damaged, and they showed us their photo album– they truly can repair anything. However, I was less impressed with what they could do, than with what could happen. For me, that album was a book of miracles and horrors). They looked over the parts, went out and found some hardware, and made some parts themselves, and put the girls’ bed together. They also asked if we would like to try for a boy, “Wouldn’t you want to have a boy?”

R and I looked at each other, and then he smiled weakly and said, “Oh, we are all done.”  There was awkwardness in that room. Maybe they wished they had not asked, and we wished hey hadn’t asked, and I was on the verge of telling them that we do have a son, but he is not alive. I did not because hey were stacking the beds then and I was afraid everything will topple and fall.

::

We have been looking for a house that we can call home. It had not been easy finding something we like. Either too old requiring too much work, too small, too compartmentalized, or the kitchen was a joke. But in any case, we will need our house in AZ to sell first, so we are keeping fingers very crossed that it goes fast.

Still we are looking, to get an idea of the market, and it had been helpful understanding the houses here. So many different issues we have to consider, and we realize there will also be more work maintaining a house here than back in Phoenix, due to climate differences.

Yesterday we went to an open house. The neighborhood was great and beautiful. The house was old, but we liked the good-sized rooms and the screened porch and the yard was decent and green. R had some concerns with regard the heating/cooling elements and while the realtor answered our questions she told us the seller was “very motivated” (meaning, she had lowered the price by 40 thousand, and will even do so further, as she wanted the house off her hands). But I think she also did not want us to think it was because the house had major problems so she offered, “Her husband passed away, and this is a lot of house for her. She is anxious to sell it.”

The house has been on the market for four months.

I have no idea how long they lived in the house, but from the looks of it, it was a long time. I don’t know how he died, but I could viscerally feel how the past months had been for her. I still freshly remember packing up the cabin, putting away Ferdinand’s things and my heart is still broken. As we walked back out to our car, I felt tears rising, and as I stood and waited for R to scoop out the front and back yard, I looked up at the sky and see the green tree tops and I wondered if I was wanting to cry for myself or for the female owner of the house.

It was a lovely, old house. Walking through and seeing everything you can sense a lot of happy memories in there and all the work that had been done there. There was a library lined with books. And a lot of baby/toddler stuff, which must have been the grandchildren, and I imagine the male owner being missed by so many people. I selfishly thought of myself too, what if one day I am on my own, it will totally break me to have to deal with everything and then have the house cleaned and beautifully decorated, so strangers can come walk through and peek into bits of our private lives, and maybe, buy it from me. What will I be selling then? Memories, or parts of a heart?

Life is so crazy in that way. How happy memories can turn bittersweet with a change of events. We have, in order to lose. The very same thing that brought you joy can and will bring you sorrow too.

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This post is written as participation in the amazing Angie’s blog project, Right Where I Am. Thank you, Angie, what a fabulous idea this is.

::

In two months, it will be Ferdinand’s birthday, and once again we will remember it and celebrate without his presence, his absence every poignant, our hearts ever aching.

But this will be the first time I am getting through that day without friends by my side. We will have just moved to a new state, a new city, with much to learn and adapt to, and I do wonder how and if all that stress and distractions will affect my grief on that particular day. I wonder if that day will be different being far away from the place when it all happened, where my life changed forever.

Packing up at the cabin a few days was tough. We are selling the cabin. This is the place where I had spent some of the best days of my life, and also some of my worst. We spent many days and moments there anticipating Ferdinand’s birth. I had my Blessingway at the cabin, and R drove the birthing pool in the midst of a drizzle, winding along the mountain roads, so I could have my dream water birth. Yet right there, at our much-loved cabin, we did not find his heartbeat. In that cabin I had bawled loudly and cried my heart out. I had clawed at the carpet and walked circles around the gliding chair that we had hunted down and brought up to the cabin, imagining the amount of time I will spend there, nursing my sweet baby son. I had filled drawers with baby clothes and then I had emptied those same items with a bleeding heart, clenched teeth, aching empty arms and a tearful face. I hid there, away from people, and I listened numbly to the flow of the river, the birds’ calls, and wondered if I will ever come to life again. Boxing up the last of our possessions there, I cried. Memories came flooding back and I remembered that shock and hurt all over again, every second of the fateful event playing out in my head: loud, defined and clear.

In my heart I whispered, “Don’t worry, Ferdinand, I am taking you with us.”

But that may just be silly. For, so often during my mundane days when my thoughts turn to my son, and I plead to myself, “I so wish he is here. How I wish to have my son and watch him grow.” And almost as often I hear a voice in my head, firm and loving, the voice of my son saying, “You do not need me to be happy, mama. You are OK, you can be happy.”

And that always makes me cry, my back turned to the world, rinsing out the dishes.

As I walk further out on my grief journey, I sometimes feel stronger. The urge to grab strangers by their shoulders and hiss to them that my son had died has diminished. I talk less about him, and I write less. But I do not love less, miss less or grieve less.

Just different.

I have found ways to cope, and yes, I did moved on.  I can’t really spell out the details, which I sometimes wish I could, or to pen a manual of grief and healing, or to formulate a salve that will soothe all aching mothers’ hearts. Somehow, as the days wear on, I find my strengths and I plodded on. I admit to myself that even as I keep rubbing dust in my hair, and walk around like a living zombie, it just will not change the reality of it all. I allow myself to grieve and I know that there will be sudden rough moments, and I just acknowledge that of the many roles and identities I will assume in my life, one of them is that of a bereaved mother. And I try to use my experience as a bereaved mother to support people who seek others who can understand. I am honored to have walked with and sat with others on their grief journey, and every step of the way, Ferdinand was with me, throwing my heart wide open, shining brightly, healing.

And I know there will always be moments that just lashes at my knees, causing me to keel and break apart. Lately it is the episodes of “Charlie and Lola” that Lyra so enjoy watching. And each time I see her grin or chuckle over the story of Charlie and Lola, my heart breaks a little. I keep thinking the story of Charlie and Lola could well have been the story of Ferdinand and Lyra. I always imagine Ferdinand’s voice when he opens the episode introducing his little sister who is very small and cute. I really wish Lyra has a big brother who just adores her. She is truly adorable and she heals my heart. It is not her obligation, but by being just who she is, she soothes my aching heart. So often she brings me to tears, and I still have not talked to her about Ferdinand yet. I do not really know how, but I do not worry about it, because I know the day will come when I know it, and the words will flow, as will the tears.

Sometimes I wish I will stop with the could-have-been, but sometimes I really just cannot help it.

Some things just will never change: Ferdinand’s stillbirth. Waves crashing on shores. His absence. The moon waxing and waning. People who simply will not understand and acknowledge. Rain. People who refuse to look our way of the bereaved circle. Blossoms. The discomfort over talking about death, especially that of a baby. Falling leaves.

Some things change. I walked on. My son walked along with me. I moved on because it was the only way. My heart will always have a hole, and the cast of grief’s shadow. I got stronger and I live my life different.

But oh, my heart as a bereaved mother, many years out it will be the same. Beautifully scarred. My life, ever perfectly imperfect.

 

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