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.


Living in two zones

It’s been an interesting few months. I’ve been very quiet about some new developments because it’s something I once simultaneously seethed jealously over while feeling repulsed, and yearned for with every fibre of my being.

I’ve been expressing these confusing emotions on another blog, and that’s all I’ll say for now!

I’m living in grief for my beloved one who is gone, terror because of what I know could happen next, and happiness for what could be.

I still want to be quiet about it, which is why I’m only publishing this on WordPress and not my usual channels. But putting this out now feels right.

Thanks for reading!

Soggy, wet

When I think back to the last few months of my life, and remember the deep, heavy grief I lived with for months on end, the first adjectives that come to mind are: sodden, heavy, wet, drenched, marooned, but not drowned. I didn’t drown.

A grief councillor told me two weeks ago that we heal at our own individual pace, but that it starts second by second, then minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month, and so on.

If I think of my grief this way, and it resonates with me (I felt like the world was throwing me off – life just wasn’t a real, tangible thing. My life was worthless without Henry), I see myself in an endless lake. I’m in the middle, vertical. Static, unmoving. The sky is grey, water is murky and grey. I don’t care what might be swimming underneath. In fact, I wished something would just drag me down under so the pain would stop. Even for a minute. Please?

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After seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months – I realize there’s been a canoe next to me the entire time. I didn’t know it was there or who put it there, and I never looked around where I had been floating upright, with the water tickling my nostrils, and never fully submerged for long. I didn’t want to see what was around me, and I didn’t need to, but suddenly – canoe!

I don’t want to escape – don’t need to retreat or leave the deep, dark lake, but I get in the canoe. I feel like I’ve been paddling in the canoe, no destination in mind, no destination desired. I’m not as heavy as I started out. Not as soggy. I can lift my head. I can rotate by body. I certainly couldn’t before.

I have shed sentimentality, shyness, and even some patience. If you’re a whiner – a complainer – I have no time for you, and I won’t even waste my time telling you I have no time for you. I have sloughed off a loose skin that was ultra-sensitive. Floating in the water has helped me transform in certain ways, tightened up, like a rock with many faces. I adore, love stronger, and I shove off stronger. That’s what my grief has done for my life, for better or for worse. And I don’t feel guilty any more for feeling joy.

How has grief transformed you?

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.

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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.

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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!