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.

Advertisements

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

 

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

 

Nine years ago today

Nine year ago today, I was preparing to take flight as a young adult, exploring, working and having a TON of fun.

23 year-old me was packing my suitcase and flying south to Tucson, Arizona, to work on a burrowing owl project.

A good friend, my mom, and my dad came to see me off at the Dorval airport. That was the last time I ever saw my dad.

Fun and adventure was cut short when, on August 21, just a week before I was to return home, I got the worst phone call of my life – my mom – letting me know my dad suddenly died.

Falling to the floor, I somehow made it home, a constant stream of tears from the phone call to, oh, months later.

I miss my dad. If there was anyone who ever truly understood me – it was him. We’re very alike. He’s a very good role model and life has just felt weird ever since he left. It sucks that he got to meet Henry – but funny in a way, because the opposite of that was a big sadness while I was pregnant.

So here’s to it being nearly a decade since I last saw my dad.

He’s been gone eight and a half years. I still want him to be proud of me.

318_579621312217_5925_n (1)

16 year-old me and my daddy

 

Keeping to myself

When my story was finally published yesterday in Exhale Literary Magazine, it made me realize that expressing my grief publicly has run its course, for now. I’m still heartbroken over the loss of Henry. A part of me will always be sad. But the purpose and urgency to blog that I had when I first lost him has changed.

I think that’s why I haven’t really been blogging lately. My grief has moved to an internal, private space.

I’m not normally too sentimental, but I’ve always appreciated and been very grateful for every comment and bit of support we’ve received. But yesterday, reading some of the reactions from my published article actually made me go “yeah, yeah.” Well meaning, lovely, thoughtful comments that would normally make me cry and feel loved and held.

It’s probably another stage of grief. Acceptance? Dealing with it? Needing space and time? Needing to not delve in to losing my child every time someone asks me how I’m doing? It’s part of who I am, just as much as my nose is part of my face. It’s always there, and I don’t always need to talk about it.

This isn’t’ a signoff. I’ve just been keeping to myself, and I’m comfortable this way, for now. Winter has turned to spring not only in the physical world, it seems. And writing about it has really helped a lot.

But there are milestones. Birthdays, original due dates, anniversaries. An endless list of firsts that Henry never got to surmount.  In fact, on the 28th of this month, it will be six months since I delivered Henry. Six months since this little person who never got to take a breath of air, cry, or look at him mother, lived and died. And changed my world forever.

 

 

 

 

Your baby’s pictures

It doesn’t hurt to look at my friends’ baby’s pictures anymore. Remember a while ago, I wrote about how much that sucked, yet I was compelled by some inner drive of torture to look at ALL of them on facebook. Grief has no bounds for the crazy things it makes you do.

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 3.04.57 PM

It got to the point where I no longer ‘followed’ even close friends so that I wouldn’t see their happy goddamn babies and their happy goddamn perfect lives, with all the alive babies who didn’t have a horrible fatal genetic disease that didn’t kill them. The well of bitterness ran deep. Now the acid seems to have been replaced with something less noxious, and I’m able to look now and then without sharp knives piercing my heart. Hooray!

Yes, this is Mother

 

My child may be dead, but I am a mother. So, mother’s day and all that – yep, I count. I nurtured and delivered a whole human. My water broke, then the placenta was delivered, and in between was a beautiful, delicate little boy after a few hours of contractions. And I’ve been a step-parent for over six years, so I’ve earned my stipes.

Some of the most well-meaning and insensitive things have been said to me since losing my son last fall. And they usually come from the mouths of people who do love me, which makes it all the more awkward and difficult to point out.

One dear friend who I was speaking with about trying again someday for another baby said, endearingly, something like “so you’ll finally get to know what it’s like to be a mother.” I corrected them and was pretty straightforward about it, but it inspired me to make this PSA. And it’s just something to remember when speaking with someone who has lost a child.

Image courtesy of https://i1.wp.com/www.littleangelsonlinestore.com/Store/prodimages/11276.jpg

Our children stay with us, whether they’re alive or were taken from us. And we’re constantly thinking of them. Not having them counted amongst our living, or yet-to-be born children, is painful. Much like my worries about Henry being forgotten around the holidays, and much like the fears (hopefully unfounded) about actually having another child someday and hearing that same sentiment, of “finally” being a mom.

Henry has given me the gift of being a mother to my own biological child, and my step-son has hurled me into the realm of parenthood. It’d be a mouthful to say this to someone in passing, so I’d likely hum a smile in response to questions about my children. But please be aware when asking people about their kids that you never know what heartache  and trauma someone may have, or is experiencing.