Thursday, May 26, 2011

Right Where I Am: 8 1/2 Months

Thank you, Angie, for getting this project going.  Being able to read and share in the journeys of other bereaved mothers has been my lifeline in the last 8 1/2 months.  Having these snapshots all in one compilation is an incredible idea.

So, where am I?  

Damn good question, I feel like I've been asking myself that a lot the past few weeks.

In the full existential sense of the question.  Where am I? Where has the "me" that I used to recognize gone?

I am wordless, most days.  I don't blog nearly as much as I did in the early days.  I feel like everything would be redundant right now.  I miss Otis. I can't believe he's dead. And yet, I can.  I do.  This knowledge does feel somehow more integrated than it used to, that's for sure.

I don't cry every day.  I cry maybe once a week.  And even then, it's usually not big, sobbing, wailing cries.  Sometimes I miss those. These cries sneak up on me, out of nowhere, and bubble out.  A song on the radio, a pass by his dresser and a glimpse of his photo...they can still get me. They show up, they pass.  Life goes on.  Or it doesn't.

I was talking with my therapist the other day, and mentioning how my grief seems to have shifted.  In the "early days" (note: I still very much feel I am in the early days, but I'm talking early-early days, maybe the first four months...) I felt like I was in a horror movie.  Running from a masked killer, who was chasing me down.  I was breathless, terrorized, frantic.  Afraid to stop running for fear my grief would consume me, swallow me whole...

Now though, it feels less frantic.  My grief pops up and it's like, "oh, hello.  there you are.  was wondering when you were going to show up again."  Without fully even grasping the imagery, I shared with my therapist that my grief now sort of feels like a baby that I carry with me...  Baby starts to cry, I pick the baby up, hold it, love on it, acknowledge it, cry with it sometimes....It's something that lives with me, that is always there, sometimes it needs to be loud and bossy and other times it's just *there.*   I don't run from it anymore.  

My boy brings me joy in ways I never would have imagined.  I appreciate the delicate opening of a flower in a different way. I blow almost every dandelion that I come across, making wishes and sending the seeds out to my boy, while at the same time thanking him for showing up at that moment.  The fragility of my heart makes me gasp and cry way more often than it did pre-September 12, 2010; but I don't recoil from that truth, I appreciate it.  

But that's a little more, I don't know, global perspective, big broad brush stroke perspective, than the nitty gritty ugly details.  What about right now? Right at this moment...I still feel very lost.  Angry.  I can't be around others' babies, I don't want to hear about children and families.  I get indignant a lot, and find myself to be a lot more self-righteous than I'd like to be.  I am not good with social commitments.  I am working again, masquerading as a "normal person" a lot of the time, but there's so much under the surface still.  I worry about friends, family, loved ones and pets dying pretty much all the time.  I wake up several times a night to make sure my dogs are still breathing.  I can't watch small children eating because I see them choking.  My husband got some kinda scary bloodwork results back yesterday and within seconds I had planned his entire funeral.  Fear and anxiety have made themselves part of my everyday patchwork in new and vivid ways.  I am spacy and take a lot of comfort in brainless TV or movies.  I've only read a few non-babyloss-related books since Otis died and even then my attention span wanes considerably.  I just don't care about a lot. This is sometimes good - some things roll off my back in ways they wouldn't have 9 months ago.  But my friendships are suffering, and I am not always comfortable just "not caring."  I hear people complain about something and often it's like this endless refrain in my head, "Oh yeah?  My baby died." And then I feel guilty.  And sad. Meh.

I am also pregnant again.  Almost 20 weeks now.  Theoretically "halfway," though I don't trust that this pregnancy will go to term and I also don't know what exactly I am "halfway" to.  Death? Perhaps.  Birth?  Seems unfathomable.   I love this baby already so much, but so differently than I remember loving Otis during my pregnancy with him.  There are moments of joy and hope, don't get me wrong, but there have also been so many moments of terror, of anxiety, of desperate loneliness and longing.  I can't imagine parenting a living child.  I don't know how I will.  I worry that this child will always live in Otis's shadow.  That I could never love this child anywhere near the amount that I love Otis.  Please don't try to convince me otherwise, logic and reason just don't apply here.  

If there's one thing I can trust these days, it's that life is fluid and changes, unpredictably, all the time.  Sometimes the surprises bring a light into my eyes and a smile into my heart.  Other times, the surprises cause the floor to fall out and leave me panicked and shaky.  My hands hurt from "white knuckling" sometimes; gripping onto this imaginary something so hard as if it could somehow control my life, control the future.  Other times I walk through the world and realize I have never seen colors so bright, smelled flowers so fragrant, felt love so true, and I know I have my son to thank.

Thank you, Otis.  

I love you so much.  I miss you so much.  As high as the sky, as deep as the ocean, forever and ever and ever.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thank You, Suzanne Collins

For writing The Hunger Games trilogy, keeping me occupied through bedrest and modified activity, and, most importantly, for bringing me these:

(perhaps this may be a semi-spoiler if you haven't read the books, but I omitted some details, hopefully the quotes still makes sense...)

"There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over.  I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children.  But his arms are there to comfort me....I know this would have happened anyway.  That what I need to survive is not [someone else's] fire, kindled with rage and hatred.  I have plenty of fire myself.  What I need is the dandelion in the spring.  The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction.  The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses.  That it can be good again.  And only [he] can give me that."


"One day I'll have to explain about my nightmares.  Why they came.  Why they won't ever really go away.   I'll tell them how I survive it.  I'll tell them on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything, because I'm afraid it could be taken away.  That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've seen someone do."

Both quotes are from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (book 3 in the trilogy).

I finished this book yesterday and sobbed, sobbed, sobbed my eyes out.  I miss my boy so much.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I think there are times when grief mimics so many other ailments, both mental and physical...lately I've been feeling like I'm grappling with forms of ADD - my ability to focus on anything is so limited.  I notice it especially in my interactions with people outside of my immediate comfort zone (i.e. E and a few select BLMs who understand without me having to explain anything, and maybe my bff Jill.)  I can't focus on their words, on their lives, on what they makes me feel like a horrendous friend and like a failure in so many ways...

And yet I also barely have the attention span or focus to feel badly about watching my friendships wither and suffer through this.

I spend most of my time alone these days.  With the dogs, so there's that.  Watching bad television or reading books when I can focus - but even the third book of the Hunger Games trilogy is taking me weeks to finish because I can only stomach it in small doses or else I end up feeling so powerless, so sad, so angry.  Last night I fell apart in anger and sadness and I think a good part of it had to do with my having read Mockingjay for a good couple of hours in the afternoon.

I mean, I'm surviving.  A lot of times I'd even go so far as to say I'm "okay."(Thanks Brooke, for being able to say it so much more eloquently than I can...)  But it's felt pretty mediocre lately, and I have trouble settling for mediocre.  I mean, sure, I made it through Mother's Day in tact, with only a few breakdowns late in the day.  I sleep through the night, I shower, I go to work, I laugh, I manage...I'm functioning.  It just feels so less than satisfying right now.

Baby brother update, for those of you who are interested, is that I'm now a little past 17 weeks pregnant, baby is growing strong and I'm starting to feel his little fluttery kicks every now and again (but still super rarely.)  I'm still seeing the peri for weekly ultrasounds and at our last appointment the peri saw that my SCH seems to be breaking down into smaller pieces (he says it's a good thing but we never know if he's just trying not to scare me).  But it's still there, I'm still on modified activity, and I still have bouts of being scared out of my mind about all sorts of complications - some that theoretically would be related to the SCH and some that are just me being an anxious mother who had the worst outcome in her last pregnancy so how could I be anything but anxious...We scheduled the c-section at our last appointment as well, which felt so crazy to me, being the superstitious woman that I am, and it seeming to be so far off, but my doctor really wanted to get me on the calendar now before his schedule filled up, so that's what we did.  When he talked about the surgery and the after the surgery with me, he mentioned "And that's when we bring the baby to your chest, and you two do skin-to-skin while we stitch you up" and out of nowhere I felt like I couldn't breathe.  Because, well, that's where I didn't get to go with Otis.  Otis never nuzzled into my skin, I never held him to my skin, I didn't get those moments with him.  So to have it spoken about like it was something I might get to do with this babe, oh, it just made me so very sad.  I cried in the shower later that night rethinking the doctor's words.  I can't quite place the tears - are they sadness? hope? fear? love for this baby as well as for his older brother? A little bit of everything, I imagine.

We also have been talking about names.  We have one that seems to be the frontrunner these days, and E has even taken to calling baby by that name most of the time.  Again, my superstitious self feels like it's asking for trouble to be thinking like this.  I know I've said this so many times, but I just hate that I can't be an innocent, oblivious, happy pregnant woman through this pregnancy.

I have moments of feeling this baby will be coming home with us.  I have moments of imagining the worst happening all over again.  I can't quite stay in the present moment and just be with what is, right now.  I have no idea what that would even mean, except that I guess today it means we are planting flowers in Otis's garden and snuggling with the dogs and reading books and watching bad tv.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Mother's Day looms.  I want to crawl under a rock for both the build up and the day itself.

Last year on Mother's Day we went shopping for a pregnancy pillow, my belly was finally big enough to make sleeping comfortably a bit of a task.  E also gave me a book, some Pioneer Woman Country Living type guide book, seriously, about how to can fruit for the winter, how to make preserves, how to raise chickens and goats and build a root cellar and all sorts of stuff...I think he really fancied the idea of me becoming a "back to the land" sort of pioneer woman on our urban farmstead...or something.  The book sat in the stack of pregnancy books next to my bed.  Occasionally I'd pick it up and read how to grow chard, or dry spices, or make my own moccasins...and wonder when I was going to have time to do any of that...a sweet gift, wishful thinking, I told E.

And it's not like this year Otis would actually be making me a present or cooking me breakfast or anything, and I really do believe I am a mother, even though Otis isn't here alive with us, so what's my trepidation about the day?

I think a big part of it is that it's going to be another one of those days that people tiptoe around me, post hearts on my facebook wall, recognize the sadness of my state of motherhood.  It's not about my kids (or even my husband) saying "Hey mom, look at all the great stuff you do, here are some pancakes we made for you!"  Instead, it's about people feeling sad that the day is so sad for me.  And again, there's the chasm of the "them" and "me" (or "us" since I'm writing to so many who know this firsthand.)  The who I thought I was going to be, this year on Mother's Day, and the who I find myself as.

My own mother has told me that she has no plans for Mother's Day.  She is going out to lunch with a friend, and has no designs on seeing us, having me even recognize it for her in any way.  She goes on and on about it being a Hallmark Holiday and she just doesn't get it.  I guess I should be really thankful we're not doing another big family event.  (Easter was fine, by the way, though I spent a good portion of it napping or pretending to nap on the sofa, away from the hubbub and "festivity" of it all.)

I actually think that maybe we can just ignore the day all together (provided we don't try to go have brunch at some hotel or something that morning!) But E is definitely sensitive to it, and wants me to feel special and honored.  We talked about taking a weekend away, using one of the gift certificates for a fancy resort nearby that my clients have given me; but the weather is supposed to shift and be not so great for Sunday anyway, and I don't want to spend all that money on a resort if I'm not going to enjoy sitting out at a pool or enjoying the warm sun on my skin.

Anyway, bleh.

And this wasn't supposed to be all about Mother's Day, I was also going to post to just tell you all that I'm here, surviving, continuing to wonder if this new baby is still alive, seeing my doctor weekly (so far so good, they say), gaining weight, missing Otis.