Still your mom

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.

Henry’s impact in 2013

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.

Click here to see the complete report.

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.

Childbirth-Related Psychological Trauma: An Issue Whose Time Has Come

Mel Lefebvre:

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.

Originally posted on :

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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Rainbow stink bum

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.

Photo property of Mel Lefebvre

 

On death, impending labour, and threatened with court

My beloved grandmother died early this morning. I jokingly made her promise me last week she’d wait to leave us until the end of the month, when Henry’s brother is supposed to make his debut. I don’t take it personally that she didn’t stave off her severe lung infection needing constant oxygen support, recent heart attack and broken pelvic bones, and chronic several pain, arthritis, and early onset Alzheimer’s just to meet her second great-grandson (what kills me, is we tried. Henry, if you lived, you would have met your Great-Nana). It was time to go back home and be with her family, all of whom died before the age of 70. She made it to 94. What a woman. I will miss her dearly.

My Nana’s funeral starts on Thursday with a few hours of visitation in a funeral home I always thought sounded like a candy store. Urgel Bourgie. Friday is the remembrance mass and burial. Friday is also my soft due date (we’ve been sticking to the 27th – Sunday – as baby’s date of arrival, but in all calendrial honesty, he’s due the 25th).

Will I be at the funeral? Will I be in the throes of labour? I guess we’ll see. You never know when you’re going to come or go in this life.

In bad news, I found out that I tested positive for streptococcus B. If transferred to baby, it’s fatal. Great. More things to worry about. I pray Henry doesn’t meet his brother before I do. But the antibiotics I’m supposed to have as I start labour are supposed to protect him.

And I’ve mentioned I have a step-son before, have I not? Did I also mention his mom is, hmm, to avoid public defamation, is, in the most PC way I can express it – leaves much to be desired in her parenting competency. She believes her high-school dropout roaming minimum-wage earning ass is going to prevent us from moving a few provinces over in the middle of next year, with my step-on, of which we have full custody, to a two-year postdoctoral position offered to my betrothed, at a significant raise and an overall boost to our livelihood.

Forget the fact that my partner (who will soon be my husband) will have myself and our newborn to support, plus his son by this she-devil who, if we do go to court, will drain every last red cent we had saved up for our impending move and to float us by the next few months while we focus on baby. She doesn’t even want to change the frequency of her visitations, which is supposed to be every two weekends, but is usually, maybe, only once per month, with nary as much as a phone call in between. The drama lama has hit my family hard.

Grandma – strep B – ex-girlfriend/step-son … whats’ that thing about women close to labour needing to relax and prepare for the big push? You know, that thingy about them being the priority so they’re feeling good and supported and taken care of so labour goes as well as possible?

Apparently, I have to be super human and try my best to filet away the drama, accept Nana’s gone, and not worry about strep B because antibiotics will take care of it so I can be as relaxed and well-rested as possible for the big (enormously overshadowed) day.

So this is your warning. Don’t you dare tell me everything should turn out okay, or not to worry, or sprinkle sugar on any of this. Shit with sugar on it is a waste of perfectly good sugar. It damn well might not work out at all, and I have no illusions about it. I’m stressed, I’m sad, I’m worried, and I’m supposed to be giving birth within the next week. Please pocket your helpful words of advice because I pretty much guarantee you’ve never experienced compound events like this. If you have, then let’s talk.  Not to sound defensive, but I  can already feel well-meaning words of advice fluttering around this blog post, so, please don’t bother. I’m just pissed off. At life.

I have one dead son, one dead father, and no grandparents left. My last one checked out today and I haven’t really stopped to process her death yet. And a step-son who won’t stop talking about how his mom is going to take us to court, sue us, and win. And a partner who is racing to finish and submit his Ph.D before I give birth. How’s that for a hectic week? Ah fuck, and it’s only Monday.

 

One

One year ago today, we lost you.

I remember the hospital, the nurses – thieves of slumber throughout the night – checking that bloody beeping blue machine, checking my IV drip, inserting the misoprotol. Waiting for my child to drop and be taken away.

Contractions. Broken water. Panic of a new mom. Birth canal. Pushing. A silent baby.

We held you, our beautiful, perfect Henry. We were afraid to handle you too much. You were so, so broken. Born with limbs jutting the wrong way. So frail. You were gone, but we dared not hurt you more, our precious son. A new mom who left the hospital without her child. A father without his second son.

Now, memories. Memorabilia. A few photos. Your footprints, and the hat they put on your head that still has some of your blood. Ashes in an urn I made you.

You are long gone, but you will never, ever, ever be forgotten. Where are you now?

I love you, Henry. My first love, my first child. And I miss you every day.

Once year equals 365 excruciating days without you. Happy birthday, my sweet Henry.

Photo on 13-05-02 at 3.22 PM