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Archive for the ‘Grieving/healing/finding Hope’ Category

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.

 

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::: <<<<  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

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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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I received an email from a sweet family friend C, who excitedly told me that she had found the perfect photo frame wherein she wanted to display photos of my family. She had already fitted in the photo-card we sent out for Chinese New Year this year, and she wanted to use the one from 2009 as well. There are two more slots. And she requested a photo of our entire family, “with mom and dad included,” and finally, she would love to have one of Ferdinand.

I almost wept. In my heart I just repeated Thank you thank you thank you! Thank you for remembering little Ferdinand!

But at the same time a seed of dread was beginning to sprout in my heart. And rapidly its tendrils grew and entwined and gripped and strangled.

I descended into our digital photo archives and scrolled to the dreaded year, then the awful month, and then the most unforgettable, horrible day(s) of our lives. Life spun backwards, screeching at high speed while I clicked and scrolled, my eyes darting here and there, trying not to see the pain and agony, futilely fending off the sad memories, balling up and trying to roll away from the hurt and shock. But I not only saw those images again. I felt them viscerally. It was like digging into my own raw flesh with nails encrusted with raw, diamond-edged salt.

I found the picture, the touched up one. I sent it off.

But not the memories, not the pain, not the grief. Those stayed. And I sobbed.

Bitterly.

How funny that I recently again came across W.H. Auden’s poem, “Funeral Blues.” I could never write like that, but I know I wished like that after Ferdinand died. I wanted the world to crumble, for the sky to fall and for laughter to be wiped out forever. Eternal darkness, and floods of tears to never subside.

Some days life feels like the crisp, clear, cheery morning after an evening of raging storm. Raindrops quiver on leaves, birds tweet and butterflies flit.

People like to keep pointing to the rainbow that manifests after a storm. I like to remind them that it came after an ugly, formidable storm. I appreciate and cherish the rainbow, I just never forgot the storm.

::

“Funeral Blues” (Song IX/ from “Two Songs for Hedli Anderson)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

~ Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973)

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Have you considered what an irony the title of my new food blog seems? — My Sweet Life.

It is not that my life is not sweet. There are many genuine sweet moments. I just feel it is a shiny, happy carefree woman who has a doting husband and four healthy children, a big bright clean kitchen and a size 4 jeans who gets to name her blog “My Sweet Life.” But when I was setting up the blog I did not have any clever title in my head, and I did not want to wait for a clever title to come along (it may never ever) so I just did it. Strangely that was the title that popped up, I guess because the first few recipes I already had in mind were the sweet stuff.

I had written in one of  my posts there that life cannot be all sweetness, just like our palette tastes not just sweet, but also sour, bitter, salty and spicy.

Some moments of my life are beyond sweet. Others are bittersweet. I know you know what I mean.

The past couple of weeks my heart had been heavy thinking of R’s cousin, N.  N is a very, very sweet lady. When I visited Germany and R’s family for the first time she made an effort to make me feel at home. I could not speak German and so she spoke English with me, even if she had to stop often and think of a word. I know if we had moved to Germany we probably would have gotten along very well and maybe even be good friends. I do not know for sure but that was and is how I feel. After Ferdinand died, she sent a card, several months after. She was the only person on the German side who sent anything. I knew she had given much thought about what to write, and I so appreciate her having taken the effort.

Now, I may need to write her a card, but I am not absolutely sure how I will choose my words.N became a mother three years ago, to a boy born with a cleft palete. That was amended with surgery. Then she fell pregnant with twins. But soon they found out one of the twins had a severe heart condition and will need surgery soon after birth. N had to go on bedrest the last weeks of her pregnancy for various reasons. She had a C-section, and the baby with the heart condition died after birth. The doctors thought maybe the baby had down’s as well. The other baby seems to be doing well but she needed to stay longer at the hospital as she was not recovering well physically.

When R first broke the news my heart just broke for her. Totally broke. Why does her pregnancies have to be so hard? I thought about the things she is going to hear: at least one baby is still alive. You should feel grateful to at least have one baby. It must be for the best. You must be strong for your boys. You need to move on. He would not have lived long with that condition anyway. There must be a good reason for this.

I thought of how N must feel, laying on the hospital bed, her world fallen apart, her heart breaking. I thought of the other mothers I know, who have lost a twin, or babies soon after birth. I thought of all the grieving mothers and waves upon waves of sorrow just washed over me. In aching for them, I was crying for my own heart.

Right now we can only wait till we hear something from N, for they had not sent out any word yet, made no announcements. No cards, no letters. Just waiting. But in my heart and in my mind I had sent flowers and hugs many times over, and fended off all insensitive words she may have had to hear.

Her twins, and mine- if they had not left- could have been born days within each other.

This other mom, from Val’s martial arts school, had her baby safely, about the same time. Tiny baby. But cute and healthy. Born about the same time as the twins.

That mother will never know my story, or that of N’s. But maybe we don’t know hers either.

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Armed with a stack of maps from AAA I sat down to plot a trip for us. — A camping trip, that will take us from home to Canyon de Chelly to cliff dwellings and hot springs in Colorado.

It had been quite a while since we’ve been on a trip that involves my poring over maps. We used to do this, then we stopped.

The last was the year we went to Mexico, when pregnant with Ferdinand. The year after we flew back to Asia, to my home, so we can be with family, find some comfort and solace. And then we decided to stay put to keep the following pregnancy safe, and then we decided to just stay put again because we did not know what to do.

And this year, the feet begin to itch again, the eyes seeking. S put down on her list of 10 things to do for 2010 “Camp for two nights”. So, off we go again. Dig out the camping gear, spread out the map, hit the road.

Planning is crazy, at least for us it has always been. Even prior kids, our trip-planning had always alternated between calm discussions and hysterical screaming. Yes, things like how many sets of underwear to pack can escalate into a philosophical debate that reveals a deep chasm of differences between us. The drama of marriage, aye.

We will be camping the entire trip, save for two nights in a yurt. I hope my back survive. R had always been the back country camping type, delighting often in recounting his encounter with the bear who climbed up the tree and took off with his backpack (with his passport in it) and him running after the bear, who eventually abandoned his bag. He told the girls the story he heard about the bear who climbed atop a car and then opened the top with its claws like opening a tin can, to get to the food within. I hope we don’t meet those bears this time. I’ve been more the backpacking-international hostel type, clutching on to my travel journal, scribbling in cafes, saying goodbyes to fellow travelers everyday.

In total we’ll drive about 1500 miles. It is not a whole lot, the area we cover in a week, on the map. I can cover the area with my head if I lay it on the map.

But it feels we’ve all the time been wandering, lost, trudging over lands unknown. This time we found a place to point our compass to, and it feels good. Since we will be away from big cities and at high altitudes, cold nights gazing at the ocean of stars above await us. Every night we will look for our own little Ferdinand star.

::

I zoomed into the journal. The cover design was taken from a British 19th-century greeting card. “Map of a Woman’s Heart”, it said, and I was intrigued. There is an ocean of love, and the plain of ill temper, the river of revenge and the desire to rule. There is the sea of hate and the strait of jealousy, the peninsula of procrastination, and the bay of scorn, and many other islands with names like curiosity, self will, fickleness, and love of flattery. Not exactly a shining portrayal, and I thought, I can make my own map! This will be a fun thing to do with a group of people! Maybe I can even start a meme!

I drew a heart. And the first thing that came to mind was to make a hole, because there is always this hole, the one whistling with sorrow and joy. But I could not make it look right. I know there is this hole, but I am not sure of its shape, nor its location, and even its size is hard to determine. Sometimes it feels like a tiny hole, other times gaping, and at one point I told myself I cannot even draw that hole because it is even larger than my heart, all-consuming.

So I abandoned my project.

If you make your heart map, do show me.

(And here’s another version of a 19th century map of a woman’s heart.)

::

At the crack of dawn we set off tomorrow, me and my heart and the family (and the car loaded to the brim), off on our road/camping trip. I am not sure if I will lose myself or find myself. Maybe both. Cradling a tiny star in my heart, seeking the skies for direction. Away we go. Wish me luck.

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It should be an advertisement I could send to friends who obstinately refuse seatbelts, or watch with the girls to drive home the importance of being strapped while in a moving vehicle.

Instead I watched it and bawled my eyeballs out.

I think it is because the season of remembrance draws near. It’s three months away. But this season is not like the other seasons we know. It is fickle, and it is stoic. It may not come as summoned but it will come. No storm, blizzard, hurricane or earthquake will keep it away. It is dreaded, and yet welcomed, for that is when we can jab our finger on the calendar and say, “Yes, that was the day he was stillborn. Yes, it did happen. Yes, he was born, he existed.”

I flip through the calendar pages, I think ahead to the hot dry summer months and how to survive it, and only one day stands out.  And a wave of anxiety already begins to surface, and a sense of disbelief begins to arise again.

I think I know why I bawled over this video. Because the mother and daughter saw it, wide-eyed, and they were able to prevent the tragedy.

We never saw it coming. Ferdinand’s death just came from nowhere and blew us into pieces and took our places off the map. There were no signs, or perhaps we missed them (guilt, guilt, guilt) and there was nothing we could have done about it. When we found out, his passport had been stamped, his exit sealed, it was too late to do anything. No repeals.

And the video title– Embrace Life.

I wish I could embrace his life. Once, I held him in me, bundles upon bundles of cells, a heartbeat small, limbs moving around. Once, and it seemed long ago, I held him. And I wish I could embrace him now, full of life.

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