welcome

Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged, understood.

Many thanks to artist Stephanie Sicore for allowing us to feature her little bird in our banner.

subscribe
categories
search
Powered by Squarespace
Monday
Jul212014

at the kitchen table: speaking of faith

A few weeks ago, rocking M. after a middle-of-the-night nursing, I decided I should actively seek God again. This Spanish chant from Taize was going through my head: By night we seek the living waters; only thirst lights our way. I was thirsty. I missed God. I can't do this without God, I thought. I can't do motherhood without God.

I hadn't seen or heard or felt much from God since Joseph died. I'd been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for God to show up in my life again. I thought maybe M.'s birth would bring God back into my world. But it didn't.

So maybe I should stop waiting, I thought, in the dark, in the glider where I was supposed to rock my firstborn, my son, to sleep. Maybe I should hold my daughter and close my eyes and go looking for God, go looking for that feeling I used to get, that reassurance, that peace, that presence.

A few nights later, M. slept through the night, and I forgot all about God. I forgot about my need, my thirst. I fell easily back into what has become my "new normal" since Joseph died: God's absence.

Glow in the Woods isn't big on religion. It almost feels like I'm breaking some taboo to write "God" here in this post. Many of the contributors and readers are here to escape talk of religion--of God's plan, of our babies as angels, of life after death in some particular Heaven. But I also think that tackling big questions of faith is something many of us do after the loss of our children. Some lose faith. Some find it. Some, like me, limp along in a strange limbo. As if I'm still in shock, eighteen months later, from my son's stillbirth.

We invite you to join the conversation at the Kitchen Table. Our conversation is here.  Want to join in? Post the questions and your answers on your own blog, link to us here at Glow in the Woods meme-style, and share the link to your post in the comments. If you don't have your own online space, simply post your answers directly in the comments on the kitchen table page.

1. Before your loss, how would you describe your faith? How would you describe it now?

2. What do you believe about an afterlife? Where do you think your baby(ies) is/are now?

3. Have you had any experiences of visitation--spiritual, bodily, paranormal--from your baby(ies)? If you haven't, would you want to?

4. Glow in the Woods has always been a haven from talk of "angel babies." Why has this been important to you? How do you react to the term "angel baby"?

5. Are your family's beliefs different from yours? Has it caused any tension within your family relating to the death of your baby(ies)?

6.What do you say, if anything, to people--well-meaning or otherwise--when they say those cliche religious phrases like "God needed another flower in His garden" or "Your baby is with God now"?

Monday
Jul072014

too busy

I'm too busy raising my son to acknowledge how sad it makes me to see him alone in the yard.  He's playing in the sandbox solo, his cars and trucks pushing the grit around wrapped by his tiny perfect fingers.

 I hide behind the glare of the summer sun in the door, hide behind the glare of the book on my tablet. He's alone, no older brother tormenting or teaching him how to be a maniac.  Luckily he's figured that out all on his own, mostly.  I do have my moments.

Laconic and prone to naps I don't have the energy a 6 year old would have.  That relentless running; that sturdy, focused dash at top speed yet three year old slow would be beaten by the speed of his older brother across the yard, which would now be too small for the four of us.

But here there's three.  Us and him.  Her and us.  Them and me.  Whatever the daily configuration happens to be, it always comes back to us three.

He doesn't know yet.  He has no inkling.

There was a moment about a year ago that I have told no one about when Zeph happened to see a framed memorial to his lost brother.  It was a photo of Silas, his footprint, our tattoos, and his name in the sand at the beach during sunset.  It was on the floor near my dresser where Lu and I can always see it.

"Baby is sleeping," he said when he glanced at it and my heart was knifed.  I nearly fell over.

"Yes, baby is sleeping," I replied and we continued on our daily adventures with my heart pounding and my skin prickly and flushed all over my body.

I rolled on calm because there was no one else to play with, just him and me.  I couldn't collapse like I wanted to.  I couldn't freak out and howl at the unfairness of the world.  I couldn't sit down and tell him everything, that he had an older brother Silas but that Silas was dead and none of us ever knew him at all.

He's two point five.  I'm forty.  Silas should be here with us but he's not, so I have to make sure Zeph has all the fun he would have had with the older brother he will never have.

I am totally distracted by the growth of this being.  I tell him every day that he's my best friend, my squishy boy, my Zephyr.  I am so busy loving him I don't have time to be destroyed by how sad I am he's alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What excuses do you make for yourself to get by?
Monday
Jun302014

eighteen months

Though this post is about my son Joseph, whose eighteen month stillbirthday just passed, it also mentions my rainbow baby. If you are feeling sensitive to other people's living children, you might not want to read this piece.

 

You would have been.

You would have been one and a half. You would have run, bow-legged, head tilted forward, down to the water. You would have stopped short, toes at the edge of foam, afraid, or suspicious. You would have watched the birds. Watched the horizon. You would have looked back at me to see if it was okay, if all was well.

You would have been one and a half.

But you aren’t.

You weren’t.

I feel your absence so acutely here, at this beach. This is your mother’s place. Your mother’s family gathers here, and you are not with us.

I was thirty weeks pregnant when we brought you here. I put everyone’s hand on my belly to feel you kick. The first baby in your mother’s family. The first grandchild, the first nephew, the first great-nephew. D's wife was pregnant, too, and I felt closer than I ever had before with these cousins. Poised together on the edge of this thing called motherhood.

Motherhood came without you. At least I thought it was motherhood. Now that your sister is here, the contrast between motherhood and the long grief-filled months of before is stark. I see so clearly what we lost.

We took pictures in the dunes, five weeks before you died. A purple sweater. Bright sun. Holding you close. So proud of my big belly.

I push out beyond the waves, lips salty, legs kicking behind me like a frog. I can’t remember the last time I swam in the ocean. Your mother says we came very early in your pregnancy, in the summer. We told your grandparents about you, in person. She says I probably swam, and I like this memory she gives me—that I took you swimming.

We have come back to the beach twice since you died. Both times, another baby, someone who isn’t you—first D’s baby, now M.—is the center of attention. Maybe this is why I am so sad.

Maybe this is why I squirm and chafe under the constraints of mothering your sister; why I want to hand her to someone else and go down to the ocean, my arms empty. She is not you.

I’m not sure how to mother you anymore.

I look for you in the water, along the horizon. My eyes trace the path of passing birds. I scan the beach looking for you among the children, among the toddlers your age. The age you would have been.

You would have been a year and a half.

 

Do you think about what your baby(ies) would have been like at different ages? How do you feel when you see other children the same age as what your baby(ies) would have been?

What does it mean to you to mother or father the child(ren) you lost? If you've had subsequent children, how has the way you mother or father the child(ren) you lost changed since the birth of your rainbow baby(ies)?

Wednesday
Jun182014

the mother, the spectre and the bargaining crone.

This post is a reflection on my sense of self before baby loss and after and the effect that Freddie's death has had on that. I was a stay at home parent of young children before I had him and my life therefore revolved around the trappings of that life. There is some mention of how I was shaped by ordinary pregnancy and birth as well as infant loss. Please bear that in mind before reading if you are in a sensitive phase of loss.

Once it defined me, my knowledge, my experience, my hoard of stories, grim and detailed.

Once I huddled in gaggles of mothers and gossiped  - heartless midwives, empty threats of dead babies. I thrashed through birth trauma, postnatal depression, botched, unsatisfactory deliveries. My ill-used body, caught in the nets of a harried medical system that sucked me in, processed my heaving body, signed me out alive, with scant regard for my soul or sanity.

Those things, the worst that could happen, consumed the centre of my wounded being. All encompassing, damaging, poisoned.

All talked out, gradually growing around and through the pain, I became something new.

****

Once it defined me, my knowledge, my experience, my hoard of stories, gritted teeth and battles won.

Once I huddled in flocks of mothers engrossed in motherhood - failed breastfeeding, sleepless nights, babies born with challenges (I will not call them small, not even now) to be overcome. We loaded laundry and knew not the value of the little people in our care. The minutae of the tedium was our currency of connection.

I had no idea how lucky I was. I do not hold myself responsible for that.

And, all talked out, we grew, moved on. Stories rolled and rubbed and took on the sheen of a well fumbled pebble, soft, smooth, snag-less.

****

I became something new; lacking nonchalant patter, I formed an armoury of parenthood, my tales the scales of my skin. A persona grew, I became the mother people love or hate, who fought the battles, won and lost and emerged confident, skilled and with all the answers I needed. I believed in me.

I do not begrudge myself that confidence. It was good while it lasted.

****

And it all came tumbling down. In the screaming silence of the birthing room without a cry, I lost every opinion I had ever had about birth and babies. In the humming heat of SCBU, I lost everything I knew about parenting. I couldn't help him. I didn't know the language, couldn't do the procedures, couldn't choose when to hold him, might hurt him if I did.

No time to learn.

My outer shell smashed and washed away, all my conversation, all my wrath and passion, all my innocence and ignorance. I didn't know I had that.

****

When I lost my son, when I crumbled him to dust, consigned him to a memory, I also lost myself, my role, my place in society. A core was left, naked and bruised.

****

No one wants the baby lost mother. We are not welcome. We are the spectre - festering and infectious. Who would want my knowledge? It is tainted by Freddie's death, despite the four before him. I would run a mile from me. Who would chat to me about birth and babies, fearing to see me cry,  hoping that "please god, she doesn't mention HIM again!"? Who would believe my nappy choice might be right when I let my baby die? Who would believe I had knowledge about breastfeeding when I couldn't even tell he was sick before he lived.

I see the recoil even if it never comes. I see the blank weariness as they wait for me to find a reason to mention him. I see myself, hovering in their joy and deserved naivety, spoiling the thrill of the moment. I imagine myself tainting their hope, excitement. I imagine them making the opposite choice to mine, hoping to ward off the devil.

I cannot ever re-enter that world. I will distance myself even from my daughters when their time comes, hoping - irrationally - to not remind them of the brother who died.

****

So, crone like, my gift is to the girl I once was, to all mothers who never walk a harder path than tired out drudgery.

I will try not curl my lip at those with no reason to know better. I will not belittle them because their path has not been strewn with ashes and they know not that ashes can arrive in a tiny box with an etched brass plate. I will not deride them for a merry life with smaller hurts and smaller mountains to climb.

I envy them. I'm glad for them. With gritted teeth I will smile for them and the rose-tinted life they lead. I do not want them to know this pain. And I will barter my forgiveness of their lack of understanding for the gift of no future grief in this family.

If I could. If only I could.

How do you feel about the person you were before loss arrived in your life? Do you miss that person? Would you have that person back? How do you feel about people who have not experienced loss and their world view? Has it changed over time, have you become  more or less tolerant about ignorance of loss?

Monday
Jun092014

the other extinguished flame

Mrittika, or, as she often identifies herself, AahiRaahi's mom, is mother to Aahir and Raahi. Mrittika writes with a blunt honesty about the loss of her daughter Raahi two days before she would turn three months old, and the ways it has affected her relationships, both with others and with herself. Her writing is often winding and lyrical, inviting us in deep to experience her story. I am incredibly honored to welcome Mrittika as a regular contributor to Glow in the Woods.

 

There’s another unnamed word document opened on my computer, along with this one. It contains the idea for a paper my advisor had sent me in winter. It should have been written in the past few months. It has not. Even the file containing the idea has not been saved.

That’s how my career is. Unsaved, undeveloped, unwritten.

How can there be anything else, I wonder every day. How can there be anything else, apart from missing Raahi and taking care of Aahir and Som, that my mind can occupy itself with? How can I miss, feel sad and have regrets for, anything else? How can anything else matter, and cause me pain?

There was a flame. The only one that burned. The flame that kept me alive, gave me purpose, offered me flight. The flame to be exceptionally trained, hardworking, and skilled, and make a difference somewhere, soon, and then forever. As a teenager, I was never interested in romance or a family. I was fierce, and almost destined to be a hardhitting corporate dragon or academic eagle someday. My friends already teased me with the jobs I would have to get them and the research projects I would have to acknowledge their encouragement on. My male friends sympathized with any man who ever eyed me ‘that way,’ and my female friends wondered what this hankering for my ‘own identity’ at fourteen was all about.

Then I met a man for whom sacrifices seemed possible. We made joint decisions about our careers, which somehow always seemed poised in head-on collision with one another, and I saw my career in media and publishing gradually taking the backburner in order to accommodate his more successful one in technology. Still, I had a career, and much to look forward to, and every time a byline appeared, or someone praised my ‘keen editorial eye,’ I warmed a finger in that flame, now dimmed, but not extinguished.

Then we started wanting to make babies.

A surgery to remove a cyst, followed by an unexpected pregnancy, followed by a heartbreaking miscarriage. Then, a year and half later, another one. This time, the doctor advising me to give up my job.When my husband’s employer decided to transfer him to the US, I finally wanted to go back to graduate school, even though all I really wanted at this point was a family. The flame was going strong, except that it had changed color. I often could not recognize myself. But I was getting to like this new me, the one who wanted to be a mom.

Suffering from undiagnosed infertility, I focused all my energy into applying to a second Master’s, and instead, was offered positions in four prestigious PhD programs. Every admissions committee wondered why I wouldn’t accept these better offers. The truth is, I wanted it too, but I wanted to be a mom a lot more. I was not ready to commit to five years, and accepted a Master’s admission, moving to the Midwest, leaving my husband, and all chances of being a mother soon, in the northeast.

Aahir came to us in the end of the first year. By now, my first and foremost mission of a family accomplished, I wanted that PhD after all. My husband wanted a graduate degree too, a plan he had shelved as someone needed to have a stable job amidst all the instability and uncertainty of not being able to get pregnant. We started applying to graduate schools together, and chose ten pairs of schools in the same city. We got admission in two each, none in the same city.

So, with my son in my arms, I moved to Chicago, while my husband quit his job, but stayed in Columbus, to go to school there. He would commute on a bus for ten hours on Thursday nights to spend three days being a father. On Sunday nights, he made the same trip back, this time, to be a student. That summer, after the first year, we were together as a family after a whole year. We were still staring at another year of being apart, but we were so happy that we made a little girl!

Now pregnant, and taking care of a toddler, my professional flame burned the brightest for the first time since those young days of dogged determination. After putting Aahir to sleep, I would drag my pregnant body to the dining table, where I would eat dinner and write papers, grade exams and read a hundred pages before I dropped on the pile. Som now arrived on Thursday mornings, and after whirling like a windmill taking care of Aahir and me, he would work until dawn on papers, projects and coursework. Then he would take the train to downtown Chicago on Sunday night, and from there a bus at midnight to reach Columbus in the morning, heading straight to class.

Raahi was born three days before Som would be done with his program. As he packed his life in Columbus, the birthplace of our Aahir, and the battleground for my warrior husband, Raahi began to fight her battle in NICU. She came home in time for us to move for Som’s hard-earned job on the east coast. I had to give up my workplace again, in order to be with my husband, and raise our kids. Our family was complete, my reproductive aspirations had been hard-earned, and it was time to focus on my productive ambitions.

Raahi left the day after Som started his job.

Along with Raahi, I also lost the structure in my professional life. Left without a campus, an office, meetings, events, and colleagues to occupy my life, it has been impossible to feel productive or purposeful. In the absence of a swinging infant in the house, the desk, chair and bookcase suddenly seem too wooden, too pointless. The eleven unpacked boxes of useful and useless papers and books in the office are a few feet away from unpacked boxes of diapers and baby clothes in the closet. There is a computer whose battery has slowed from the months it was not turned on. Because it houses still and moving images of my daughter’s tiny life. I could not see them, and I also could not open the dozens of papers and projects also contained there.

The burning flame, a desire. As a girl, it was to make a mark, a difference. Then another one started to flicker.  As a woman, I wanted for the flame of my motherhood to warm my home, and the fire of my intellect to signal my place in the greater world. For the most productive years of my life, I have struggled to be reproductive. Now I am neither. After ten years of trying to have a family, and of giving up everything else for it, the two flames burned together for a little while, and then died down together, forever.  

How can there be anything else, I wonder every day. And yet when I read about someone not having time because of a job, or struggling with their job, even if it is a bereaved mother, I wish I had something to show for my fourteen years out of college. For my thirty-seven years of life.

Other than a desk and a bookcase and eleven unpacked boxes of useful, and useless, papers and books.

 

What other kinds of loss have you been dealing with along with grieving your baby(ies)? How has your loss affected your views of your career and your intellect? Have you returned to work since your loss? Do you take refuge in working, or does it add more stress to your life?