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

 

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The due date

It’s coming. In six days. When Henry was supposed to be born.

I’m observing myself.

How do I feel? Am I okay? How should I feel?

And there aren’t any roadmaps here. It’s desolate, and hard to see three feet in front of my face. I don’t know what’s there. I don’t know how to prepare myself.

There could be smooth road, or there could be a giant pothole, like a swimming pool, and if I’m not careful, I could drown in it, or at least wallow for a while.

My non-pregnant self is desperately scaling the walls. She wants to have a baby in her, this womb of mine. It was supposed to have a baby in it, but genetics had a say about that and took away motherhood after we thought we were in the clear.

And now the due date approaches. It’s going to come quickly. Fiercely. Ruthlessly. For this son of mine who was already born. A due date for a dead baby who already has a birthday.

There’s no logic for this. Babies aren’t supposed to be dead. They’re supposed to pass milestones and make friends and learn and grow and laugh and cry and change and be hugged and loved and taught. They’re not supposed to be dead. But mine is. The Grim Reaper was beside me the whole time. Waiting to collect what was his. And now he has Henry, and I’ll never get to hold him again. Aside from his ashes, worn around my neck, close to my heart.

Just a wee bit of blood

My period finally came. I was wondering if and when it was going to happen. My body has cycled off and is preparing for the eventuality of nurturing another life – just like Henry never happened.

And just like that, lady uterus spits out another one.

My body betrays me. I’ve put everything on hold in my life, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. How can my biology do this to me when I’m not ready? How can my womb be willing to do it all over again when mentally and emotionally, I’m still in that delivery room, I’m still seeing my child, born dead, I’m still saying goodbye.

It explains my mood in the last week, though. I’ve been irritable and pissy in general in the last month, almost in its entirety. But in the last week, I’ve been shooting laser beam daggers with electrified bees from my eyes with higher frequency.

Frickin laser beams

I’ve been the Sandy of Sainte Anne de Bellevue and the lives of my little family. And now I know why (sorry guys). I’ve been gracefully selfish, too, feeling and even saying that if you can’t handle my mood, then buck up princess, or get out of my way.

How could my body do something so normal as to have a period after I forcibly ejected my baby from my womb a month ago? F*ck off, body.

Don’t be scared or say eewww.. it’s where you came from, darling.

Thank you for feeding us

From our bellies: Thank you for the bread, soup, lasagna, zucchini bread, pie, pad thai, spring rolls, more bread and soup, tourtiere, more pie, even more soup, more pad thai and spring rolls, hot dogs and poutine, cookies and chips, chicken, coleslaw and french fries, more lasagna, cannelloni, sauce and desserts, pastries and quiche, popcorn, hot chocolate, spaghetti, zucchini, pineapple thai chicken with rice.

From our hearts: Thank you for the cards, sweet and supportive messages, flowers, poems, healing amulets, offers to go for walks, offers to talk, talking, picking up our weekly veggies at the market, flowers, flowers and flowers, taking care of Jordan, taking care of us, feeding and cleaning the rabbits, doing our dishes and laundry, thinking of us, respecting our space, writing blogs and books that help me feel less stranded. Thank you for understanding if we see you and don’t stop to chat or catch up, and sorry if you thought we were acting strange. Thank you for giving me time to mourn and pick up where I left off when I feel ready.

To Henry: Thank you for you. We miss you.

You aren’t alone

This post is written in honour of the parents who have shared their stories of loss with me, miscarriages consisting of the bulk of them. While I didn’t suffer a miscarriage, Henry’s disease is so rare that I doubt I’ll ever meet another parent who has lost a child to osteogenesis imperfecta type 2. Losing a child, no matter how the loss occurred, is absolutely devastating, and needs to be recognized by your friends and family.

I’ve been in contact with some parents whose children are suffering a terminal condition, and if it’s anything like the few days I spent between wondering, finding out, and deciding what to do about Henry, I can assure the rest of the world for you that these days are difficult and dark, but also that you are tenacious and brave.

If you’re not one of these parents, and you don’t know what to say to us, that’s OK. We were like you before our own losses. I came across a post yesterday that brilliantly summarized what to say, and what not to say to those of us who have lost a child. Please have a read here.

If you have lost a child, the book “When your child dies” by Nagel and Clark is very helpful. It validates every type of child loss in short, succinct paragraphs, and gives empowering healing tools for parents, like breathing techniques, creating memorials for your child, honouring important dates, expressing and accepting your grief no matter what form it’s in (sorrow, anger, regret, relief), and imagining what you want in the future (for me, that idea is far-fetched right now, but I’m glad its covered in the book).

This book brought on a wave of shock when it was given to me because the fact that I now owned it meant that my baby was dead. I knew that I gave birth to Henry in the hospital several days prior, and I knew that he wasn’t alive when he was born, but this book was a physical recognition of my devastation and loss.

We all grieve differently, but one thing I have had in common with some parents who have shared their stories with me is that messages of faith actually do not help. Hearing that it wasn’t meant to be makes me feel like I just lucked out of winning at a gambling machine. Hearing that losing a child or having a sick child was “given” to us because “God knew we could handle it” is a crock of shit to me. And anything that tries to make this event cute, like, now I have a little angel watching over me, is actually quite painful to hear, and diminishes my experience. These are covered in the article that I mentioned above. But if spiritual and faith-based messages help, that’s great – you have to take what works for you. But because I don’t believe in that, it doesn’t work for me. And if you’ve expressed any of these to me, I still thank you for it, because there’s no way for you to know what I need to hear. Not even I know sometimes.

No thanks.

I spent time searching for support groups online, and I came across a few websites that I found beautiful, inspiring, and made me feel as though I wasn’t alone.

Still Standing Magazine posts articles, stories, resources, special dates and more. They publish poems weekly on Sundays, and often have calls for submissions for stories, which I hope to participate in one day.

Small Bird Studios and Carly Marie Project Heal are amazing sites run by two mothers finding ways to express their grief. I think they know each other, too. Each site is beautiful, and reach out to parents through crafts, sharing stories of loss, and recognizing important dates for parents of loss worldwide. I sing praises for these women. They have been a real source of comfort for me. Carly Marie has worked to have international days of awareness for infant loss and infertility. The entire month of October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and her beautiful work has helped push this month and its pinnacle date, October 15, into the spotlight.

I have isolated myself for nearly a month, but I have rarely felt alone thanks to the resources I have mentioned, and the constant flow of love and support I’ve felt from friends, family and colleagues.

As one parent who shared her story of loss with me said, the more we talk about our experiences, the more comfort we can feel. Whether you have fertility complications, have had miscarriages, stillbirths, have a child who is living but you don’t know for how long, had a child who was only with you for too short a time, or you’re like us and had to choose to end your child’s life due to a fatal genetic disease, you are unique, but you aren’t alone.

Lost for words

I feel drained and at a loss for words today. Yesterday’s taboo post said and took a lot to post, and I’m having another sad and down day today.

I’ve had a cruel song stuck in my head the past few days, and I wish I could shake it out, and it’s ironic, because I lived part-time in Ottawa when I found out that I was pregnant with Henry: 

With peace,

Mel

Gratitude through grief

When I lost my dad eight years ago, I was a daughter mourning her father. My mother was mourning her husband, and my grandmother/aunt/cousins mourned him in their own way according to the relationship they had with him.

As I mourn Henry’s death, I feel so fortunate to be grieving the loss of the same relationship with my partner. I hate having something so painful in common with him, but we draw a lot of comfort from each other. He has been my rock, and a constant source of love and support.

We’re together, but separate, mourning in our own individual ways. Some people pour themselves in to work to restore a sense of control and normalcy after something as devastating as losing a child. My partner had no choice but to start working pretty much right away because of deadlines, etc. I can’t do that, but I’m lucky to be a freelance writer with a bit of cash in the bank to help me coast for a little while. This means I don’t have to rush back to a job if I’m not ready, and my editors are kind enough to give me the time I need to feel ready to write professionally again (if any of you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart).

I rely on my fingers to fly across the keyboard for my livelihood. But in the first days after learning Henry’s diagnosis, and the days following his delivery and death, I couldn’t make sense of my computer. I misspelled everything, got confused, and just closed up shop, only writing to a few friends to tell them the news. I let go of all of my commitments (even a beloved pottery class), and just existed (I don’t mean to sound like this is in past-tense… I’m still just a breathing, sitting blob).

Through the past two weeks, I have also been floored by the graciousness and generosity of my friends and family. This has been, without a doubt, the most difficult time of my life.

This post is about other things that I am thankful for.

We received a beautiful bouquet flowers from my old workplace, and I don’t know how many meals from friends and family, left innocently on our front porch. And I thank you for each fork-full that I didn’t have to cook myself, each kind thought, and every card that has passed through our door.

Thank you DSF

I’m also very appreciative of my friends, who have been so kind and decent as to leave my partner and I in peace with our pain. We haven’t received any surprise drop-in visits or any mournful, uncomfortable phone calls. We’re still not ready, but we’re getting there, and we thank you so much for your patience while we stay in our cocoon.

We have literally been hiding, spending days in bed. I feel that I’ve made some progress because I’ve been camping out on the sofa rather than our bed – which is getting kindof grimy and full of crumbs. But we’re exhausted, even though our days are very sedentary.

I’m also trying to find the motivation to take care of myself now that I no longer have a baby to keep me eating healthy and exercising. While I was pregnant, Henry gave me every motivation for self-maintenance, like flossing and eating veggies and completely cutting out coffee and wine.

Now that my belly is empty, I find it hard to care whether I eat in a day, floss, or do other regular self-maintenance tasks. I’m thankful for my mom, who has gently urged me to speak with my naturopath to make sure I don’t go completely off the rails, and who is arranging that I get a massage eventually. Maybe one day in the far distant future, I’ll even get a hair cut and go for a walk in the day time.

Lastly, I’m very thankful to whoever is reading my blog. It is my hope that other grieving parents, no matter how you lost your child, reads these so that they feel they’re not alone.

With love and gratitude,

Mel