It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written. Maybe it’s a good thing. I’m not living in the sea of sadness that was once so consuming I didn’t think there’d be a way out. Though Henry is still a part of my daily life. That’s not going to change. It never has. Hence, nothing new to write about, I guess!
I’m prompted to write today because someone other than myself has tried to access this WordPress account and change the password. And I ask… really?!?!?! Who are you, other than someone having a laugh, or some sick individual, would want to break in to the vault of the pain of losing my first born child? These words are the tracks of sorrow, anguish, and loss. Don’t fuck with it, you jackass. Don’t touch. Go away.
Your brother is fascinated by the necklace I wear every day in remembrance of you. Today, he ripped the small blue moonstone locket clear off its golden chain. Normally, he reaches and plays with it while nursing. When I take it off at night, his arm waggles near my heart, looking for you. He inspires awe in me, and makes me think of you constantly.
Would you have had the same smooth, round head? The same deep blue eyes? The same translucent strawberry platinum blonde hair? The same squawking manner when hungry or can’t reach a toy?
It’s Mother’s Day this weekend. The second Mother’s Day without you. Does time fly! The holiday will forever be bittersweet. There is the deep gratitude I have for your brother. The feeling that lets me hold him and drink him in that much more intently. The feeling that’s always present of how absolutely blessed I am to have him. If not for you, we wouldn’t have him. But looming until the day I see you again are the What Ifs.
You will always be my firstborn. You are already fading from people’s awareness. But never from mine. Never. I will always be Mother to you. I will always have my present children and another. And I love you and miss you always. Thank you for making me a mother. I’m proud to be yours.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Henry has been gone far longer than his all too brief life with me. It brings me some measure of comfort to see how many other people met him over the past year.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,500 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Sitting around the tree decorated with beautiful ornaments, old and new, I glimpse the one I gave your grandparents last year in memory of you. A carved wooden angel holding a baby. Cradled in ephemeral arms in a place I can’t reach you. Just another reminder you’re gone, and this is my second Christmas without you.
With your brother here now, it’s hard to imagine I gave birth to you in the same way he was brought into the world. I held you, my firstborn. It’s hard to believe you were flesh and bone, and that you left us so quickly. Your life was a brief whirlwind that tossled our lives and left us with the aftermath of your absence. Losing you stings badly, and I’m left wondering what this Christmas would have been like with you here instead.
I only have my imagination to gauge what our memories would have felt like. A bouncing baby Henry, dressed in the clothes Corin wears now, sleeping in the bed your brother has claimed. Your shadows dancing on the wall, your eyes gazing up at the ceiling fan. Your cries on the change table, your coos and burps on my shoulder. Your body I hover over dozens of times per day to check, again, that you’re alright. In a way, Henry, you gave us Corin by ceding your spot in our family. But you will always have a placeholder in my heart that is unreachable by anyone alive today. No one but you can be my first child.
Do I have to wipe the grit from my knees from the times I collapse, literally or figuratively, at how unfair life is, that you would not be here with us, and worst of all, that others might not remember you and how important you are to me? My one Christmas wish is that you know how much I love you, Henry, and that I would carve and paint myself like that angel in the tree if it means I would get to hold you.
Definitely something women should talk more about. Both my births were traumatic. Henry, because we didn’t take him home. And Corin, because I could have died.
By Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC, RLC, FAPA
I first became interested in childbirth-related psychological trauma in 1990. Twenty-three years ago, it was not on researchers’ radar. I found only one study, and it reported that there was no relation between women’s birth experiences and their emotional health. Those results never rang true for me. There were just too many stories floating around with women describing their harrowing births. I was convinced that the researchers got it wrong.
To really understand this issue, I decided to immerse myself in the literature on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During the 1980s and 1990s, most trauma researchers were interested in the effects of combat, the Holocaust, or sexual assault. Not birth. But in Charles Figley’s classic book, Trauma and Its Wake, Vol. 2 (1986), I stumbled upon something that was quite helpful in understanding the possible impact of birth. In summarizing the state of trauma research in the mid-1980s, Charles stated…
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So, Henry has a brother! Corin Richard Bonnell was born on November 3 after an excruciating 37-hour labour where I could have died. During the long and difficult labour, both his dad and I still had shadows over our hearts, convinced we weren’t bringing home our second son. My body seemed reticent to open up and let him out. As time went on, only dilated to 5 cm after 26 hours, each contraction weakened me and scared me and overwhelmed me with doubt at my ability to give birth. I’m flooded with gratitude, relief, and overwhelming love that we were wrong.
I’m now writing this with a sleepy but changed heart. The ice that has crusted over my heart since losing Henry has melted away. The fear I carried around with me constantly that we would inevitably lose Corin is gone. I’m responsible for this little person now. I’m amazed we were just allowed to walk out of the hospital with Corin. As a big advocate for adopting rescue animals from shelters, which includes a long screening process, it’s incredible new parents – sleep deprived, exhausted and quite possibly, clueless – can just pop out with a whole new human without having to prove we’re not going to do something stupid and fatal to this new life, and that we’re bringing babies to a good, healthy home.
It’s a humbling experience. One I’ve waited for for since May 2012. My perfect little rainbow baby who needs me as much as I need him.