As I commented to Angie on FB when she posted about doing this project again, writing this "Right Where I Am" post feels incredibly daunting tonight. I fear that it may rip me wide open. (As I added in my comment, "maybe that's what needs to happen.")
20 months, 11 days, 4 and 1/2 hours since my boy left this world.
Most days, I still can't believe it.
I was recently thinking of getting a tattoo across my inner arm: "He was here. And then, he wasn't."
That is the refrain that echos through my mind on my dark days, in my dark moments. It's this paradox. This riddle of sorts that my brains tries to puzzle out and solve. How is it so, he was here, and then, he wasn't?
Now granted, there are far fewer of those exceptionally dark moments, or at least there is more space between them these days. For a few reasons, I suppose.
The first reason, joy of joys, is my second born son, Owen. The most beautiful 8 month old that I have ever known. He fills my days with laughter, with smiles, with tears of joy, of gratitude, of fulfillment. And he keeps me busy. And the only bad part about that (well, other than the constant state of disarray of my personal hygiene and home) is that it often keeps me from Otis.
My cousin (not technically my cousin, but close enough for lack of a better term, a family friend that I've known since I was a child and cousin to my cousins) came over yesterday. Her son Henry died and was born just before Owen came into the world in September 2011. We were talking, and I mentioned how it's hard that I can't tend to my grief in quite the same way that I used to. I used to keep fresh flowers on Otis's table, next to his photograph, and also on the dresser by his ashes. I kept them constantly refreshed. I planted so much last year, rosebushes, daffodils, tulips, trees - and tended to them constantly. It was my way of mothering my firstborn son. And now, the rosebushes need to be trimmed. The daffodils and tulips came up again this year, but amidst many weeds they were hard to see. Our favorite Otis tree needs to be repotted or put in the ground, but we haven't been able to find time to get to it.
I miss having the time to light candles, to cry uncontrollably for as long as I need to, to scream in the shower, to cut flowers, to stare at his photographs. I miss the tenderness that E and I shared in our grief.
Some days it feels like I'm running from my grief again. That if I stopped to actually touch it, think about it, feel it - I would collapse under the enormity of it.
Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died. It makes it so incredibly much harder. Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis. Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis. The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis. I wrote it a while back - Owen grows and surprises and is ever changing. As is my love for him. Otis is frozen in time. Forever a newborn. Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in. Forever with his head full of hair combed just so. With his arm draped across his body just so. The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was. My love for him is still fierce, still all encompassing, and, sure, it grows and changes and evolves - but HE doesn't. And this kills me.
I had a nightmare last night. I lost Owen. He didn't die - I actually LOST him. Like, misplaced him. I could hear him crying, I knew he needed me, I knew someone was taking him, but I couldn't find where or who. I was screaming for him. It was terrifying. I don't overtly fear his death anymore, but clearly my subconscious does.
Reading babyloss blogs and Glow the last few nights has really put a hole in my heart in a way that it didn't used to do. All these new names, all these stories that seem to keep repeating themselves, with a new cast of characters - it's devastating. Too much for me to stomach right now.
So it's interesting. In many ways I would say OF COURSE I am "better" here at 20 months than I was last year at 8 months. My day to day operations do not shout out "MY SON DIED!" (Though I do find ways to weave it into almost every conversation I have with the moms I have met since Owen's birth, and I usually do it rather early in our meetings, as well. I must share him, you must know him.) I work part time, I raise Owen, I do not cry daily, probably not even weekly, I laugh, I dance, I giggle, I function.
But, this idea that "of course" I'm better, I can't say it with much conviction. Last year at this time I was pregnant, full of hope and dreams (and a healthy shot of fear, too, sure) for this new little boy that was going to grace our world just a week after his big brother's first birthday. I think I deluded myself into thinking (even though I logically knew otherwise and had also heard from enough blms on "the other side of the rainbow" that it wasn't going to magically make it all better) that somehow having a living baby to bring home would change it significantly.
And it has, yes. And it hasn't.
It's like my life has split yet again. There is now the me that operates as Owen's mama - full of love, fierce protective instincts, joy, even, dare I say it, a sense of peace. And then there is the me that is hidden away in a drawer, along with a lock of the finest, most lush, beautiful brown baby hair that I will ever touch. In a box, tied with a bow, along with prints of handprints and footprints that are so big you wouldn't believe they came from a newborn. (I was unable to take Owen's hand and footprints when he was born because doing so reminded me too much of Otis. It felt like a betrayal to take them of my living, breathing baby - when that is all Otis could give me, and Owen will be giving me mementos for (hopefully) many many many years to come.) I have yet to be able to reconcile these two mamas into one. Then again, Owen has just started sleeping at night and allowing me some time to myself before I go to bed, so perhaps as I settle into that time I may begin to reconnect with the parts of me that have been hidden for the eight months that Owen has been here.
I miss him. I wish he were here.
Nothing has changed. Everything has changed.
Lather, rinse, repeat.