Still born

My goodness, it’s been a while. Let’s catch up a bit.

Right now, I’m sitting on my bed while my family hangs out/be crazy/clean up after dinner. I’m supposed to be working on a 20-page term paper on governance and fair trade coffee, because I am a grad student now out of Athabasca University (yaaay!). I was so cripplingly bored and antsy after we moved across the country that I dove in about two years ago. It’s great, but I also have to do the self-discipline thing and actually find the bits of motivation needed, like some buried chocolate in a crappy chocolate chip muffin that is mostly just dry cake, to get things done. Why is this challenging? Well, because I have two bambinos now.

They are everything, but it’s also important for me to not just identify as a mommy. I’m not a mom, I’m their mom, uniquely for them. I’m also a bunch of other things. Another thing I am today is reflective on what Henry means to me after I gave birth to two living children, now 3.5 years old, and 8 months old.

I find myself feeling guilty whenever I lose patience with my toddler, because I should be savouring every second. Also, I do a lot of self-admonishion for feeling that guilt, because momming is fucking hard and challenging, and when there are two of them? At the same time? Fuuuuuuuuuuck, man. Sometimes, my face doesn’t even look like me. My eyes are glaze-y, my nose looks chunkier, I have this big ‘ol mom belly that’s kinda dangly and wiggly, but, I’m strong as fuck. Which is why I was prepared for what life threw at me today.

This morning, a beloved friend was asking me for advice of the worst kind. What should she do for her friend who delivered a still born baby last night? A lot of my answer can be found in this very blog, but basically, there’s nothing you can do. Our friend (or not friend? Or, really doesn’t matter how you relate because too bad) time will chip away at the raw, blistering pain at a life event that just cannot make sense. One thing hit me hard and stayed with me throughout the day — that she couldn’t believe she had to leave the hospital without her baby.

She could not leave the hospital with her baby.

Let that sink in.

I had to do that, too. If you’ve never done that, then you have not walked through the dark valley of hell that is walled with flames, spikes, crying, silent babies, and the oncoming onslaught of offensive images that is other people leaving the hospital with their babies. This woman, who my friend knows, is going through this right now.

The worst thing that can happen to a parent is going on so close to me, and it all comes flooding back, as if I’m also just leaving the hospital, in a fog, just trying to cope. My body compensated by developing a years-long facial tic that makes me feel like I can’t blink hard enough, almost like my body wants to shield my eyes from the pain my waking self is living.

Life is so fickle sometimes. Some babies live, some die, and the only thing separating you from those horrible moments is the time between now and then. It doesn’t matter that I have two amazing, healthy children. They don’t erase Henry, they don’t replace Henry. Henry was and always will be the first, and will always be the great mystery of my life, and my greatest loss. My two living kids bounce along in a joyful raft around the island of my loss, and more and more, that island gets sprinkles of the confetti that is the happiness from my two kids. It’s all still there, but the look is changing. I still wear my locket, and always will. but I don’t feel compelled to tell people who compliment me on it that it’s full of my baby’s ashes. He’s gone, but he was still born, just like my friend’s child. The only advice I can really give for her is, hold on tight, this is going to hurt. But you’ll surface again, so take your time.

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, seven, one

I’m really not sure which blog this post should belong to. Since it’s an emotional time of year for me, I’ll let it live here.

One

This Saturday will be my first child’s birth and death day. On September 28, 2012 at 11:13 a.m., my beautiful son, Henry, was born broken and sleeping.

Life has irrevocably changed.

I’m less patient and more patient. I’m less understanding and more compassionate. I’m less tolerant and more tolerant. I’m less hopeful and more pessimistic. Who I am doesn’t really matter. This doesn’t make much sense because losing a child doesn’t make any sense. Life is on a random-generating system, and I’m just a marble rolling around bumping in to things, trying to squeak out a living.

Seven

Tomorrow, on September 26, I will be celebrating seven years with Henry’s dad. Life with him does make sense, and the love I feel for him anchors me. I’m proud to be someone he chooses to spend his life with, which helps shine a light through my wretchedness, essentially making me lighten up and see life isn’t all bad.

A quick Google search will bring up items on there being seven-year cycles. Your body is new after completely regenerating all its cells, then there’s the seven-year itch, and seven is a lucky number, yadda yadda. Appropriately, this year is going to be our last September anniversary. On March 14, we’re getting married, giving us a new date to celebrate.

One

And finally, in one month, if all goes well, Henry will have a little brother. Someone who shared the same space he did within me, and will fill our days with a sleepy contentment that we can achieve parenthood together. A little blue-eyed, delicate human that we made and will raise in our own loving, quirky way.  He’ll have a step-brother, but equally important, we will teach him who Henry was, that he’ll always have another brother no matter what comes. All of this just blows my mind.

I feel reflective, and only slightly willing to peer down the twisting path that has brought me here today. Growing up, I never wanted children. Never wanted to get married. But life shook and rattled me, making me change my mind and seek out stability, companionship and love.

All of this makes me so tired, and sigh deeply. Life is hard work. I’m surprised I’m not more of a hedonist, where I feel it’s okay to escape life and go live out my days getting drunk on a tropical beach, not worrying about a thing.

But it is what it is. Random situation generator, marbles, and all. Even after the death of a child – that horrifying nightmare, that thing that’s not supposed to happen – here we are, one year later. Waiting to see where the marble will roll to next. Hopefully not in some dusty corner.

September emotional imprint/the Flowerbutts

Before I can even mentally process it, my body reacts to hearing or reading the word September. I’m zip-lined to an unreal time of formidable tragedy. I’m brought to the mouth of a cave that echoes, “Death and Henry are in here,” and I feel the heavy bellowing, damp air emanating from the depths of the cave, and I sit down at its mouth and gaze, hypnotized. I imagine it will always be this way.

It was like this, though not as intense, when I lost my dad. He died on the birthday of a good friend of mine, and was buried on my birthday almost 10 years ago. August is a month of sadness where before, it was celebratory. Now, the month carries a shadow, but I have so many wonderful memories of my dad that the tragedy of his sudden passing doesn’t cause August to be a brooding affair any more.

Tragedy and horrible life events seem to piggyback significant dates in my family. My Aunt had a stroke on Easter this year, my Grandfather died on Easter when I was a child, and we lost Henry two days after our six-year anniversary, at the end of September. It will be interesting to see how much we can stomach celebrating our seventh this year when two days following will be the first anniversary of the death of our first child together.

This is pretty cheesy and melodramatic, but our life is a rose for the beauty and thorns, and if you pay attention and move past the delicate inviting smell, the thorns are by far the most impressive part of the flower’s anatomy. We should change our last names to Thornjumper. Or Flowerbutt.

Image courtesy of http://fineartamerica.com/featured/rose-n-thorns-kevin-middleton.html Title: Rose N Thorns Artist: Kevin Middleton

Image courtesy of http://fineartamerica.com/featured/rose-n-thorns-kevin-middleton.html
Title: Rose N Thorns
Artist: Kevin Middleton

 

Making decisions in grief

It’s really, really hard to make decisions these days. Things kind of just have to be thrown at me and I’ll either duck out of the way, or get hit by them and incorporate whatever it is into my day. Most of the time I’d rather duck, but don’t often have the energy for it.

This is quite a bit change from the person I used to be. I was more of a direct-make decisions, no fuss kind of lady. Maybe I still am, I don’t know. I’ve been hit with a Fort McMurray-sized truck of loss, and you don’t come out of the grief-machine the same.

But I am making one decision in my cloud of grief. I know Sweetie, my beloved deceased bunny, cannot be replaced. She was a very special pet, and having her suddenly ripped from my life is really very painful.

My sweet, good girl. Rest in peace.

 

Since losing Henry, she had been one of my main sources of comfort. Watching her eat made me smile, and she was very good at snuggling. We would spend hours sometimes snuggling in my bed or on the sofa.

She also made me laugh when she would weave between our legs, honk, and follow us like a dog, demanding to be pet. She would also flop on the ground and go really flat – a sign that she was happy and comfortable. A light went out when she left, and I’ve been so angry and sad at the circumstances of her death, even though the vets did everything they could to resuscitate her. I think she died of fear, and that tears me up.

One thing is for sure – getting a new bunny that is real and already sterilized is a much quicker fix than waiting to hear from geneticists that our chances of making another baby with osteogenesis imperfecta type 2 are high or low. So I’m going for the quick fix.

In all of this, I haven’t turned to substance abuse to cope with my grief, which I find a bit amazing. Not that I would have turned to hard drugs in the first place, having never done them or had the desire to go down that path. Maybe I’m watching too much Internet TV these days to think of that as a logical progression from multiple losses. My point is, I’m going to get another bunny. Hopefully one that snuggles. I still have Wilbur – my feisty miniature grey rex rabbit, but he’s a biter, not a cuddler. Neither is my cat.

Silly wonderful Wilbur.

I’m finding so little comfort in my life these days. I’m still humbly thankful for all the love and support that friends and family are giving us – I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but at the end of the day, it’s me sitting with me and my torn lump of a heart that continues to beat for some reason.  The tools to recover, if I ever get there, are within me, and what I feel will give me some ounce of comfort is a bunny from the SPCA. So that’s one decision I’ve made.

 

Exhale Literary Magazine

I just had an article accepted for Exhale Literary Magazine‘s fall/winter issue on finding peace.

While I certainly don’t feel healed, peaceful or well at the moment, I’m glad I felt enough clarity to write something that will share Henry’s life with a wider audience.  Now I shall return to my dark corner and lick my compounded-grief wounds.