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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.

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Monday
Sep082014

the dying of the light

This post mentions my rainbow baby. If you are feeling sensitive about living children, you might want to skip this post.

My father’s voice quoting Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Only once he begins, my father can’t stop. This is his compulsion, brought perhaps by his own sense of mortality. He must recite the whole stanza, then the next, and the next, until he has given voice to the whole poem.  He sways forward and back, weight shifting from foot to foot; he makes eye contact; his voice a low half-whisper:

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

In the evenings I am sad.

I am all clichéd metaphors. I am the setting sun. The dusk, the twilight, the gloaming. The dark night of the soul. I am the dying of the light.

I rock M. to sleep, her weight solid in my arms. I slide her gently into the crib and tiptoe out. I drag my weary bones around the house, washing dishes, making my lunch for the next day, straightening up. I fall next to A. on the sofa and we watch t.v. because we are too tired, too spent, to manage anything else.

But under every step, every motion, every sigh, is Joseph. His name, Joseph, Joseph, the rocking current below the surface. A quiet pulse that I hear but I pretend I don’t. I wash M.'s bottles, measure ounces of milk for daycare. Joseph, Joseph. I match earrings to my outfit for tomorrow, finger the necklace with his name and pick out another to wear. Joseph, Joseph. I lie in bed, my brain a jumble of images and worries from the day melded in dream-like surrealism with the fictional tv characters. Joseph, Joseph.

A poem I thought I had memorized, but I can’t remember what comes next.

So I ignore. I put off. I want to write about him. I want to write about the stale shape of this grief. I want to write about the weight of Joseph’s absence. I want to write about M., about mothering this solid, living, amazing baby girl. I want to write about mortality—my own, Joseph’s, M.'s.

But time is not on my side and each day ends too swiftly. I drift off to sleep with words in my mouth unspoken, feelings unexpressed.

Resentment builds. Caring for the younger sibling steals time from the older, and Joseph is not here to demand my attention.

I rage. Who are you, anyway, Joseph? What kind of attention do you even need? How can I mother you, twenty months gone?

I rage. I rage against my selfishness, for all the things I choose every day over Joseph.

I do not know what words follow. I cannot recite the next stanza, or the next, because I no longer recognize this whole poem of grief.

Evening comes, the dying light of day. I have given voice to nothing. A heavy sleep sweeps me away. 

 

Is there a time of day you think more often of your baby(ies)? Is there a time of day you associate with grief?

Monday
Sep012014

a home for my sorrow

We are honored to have Aurelia of Losing Chiara as a guest writer today. Aurelia is a mother of 3 children, 2 living. Her daughter Chiara was born still in August 2012. She writes, "22 months into this grief I find myself still searching for ways to incorporate her into my life, to honor her memory."

 

A cemetery is a good place

to take your sorrow.

Even if the one you grieve is not buried there,

you are still in such good company.

 

Monuments to lives and loves all around.

Widowers walking the grounds for exercise,

and to be close to their wives.

 

I walk past the graves,

read the names, do the math.

I am looking for the children,

the babies.

 

Some are all grouped together in the baby garden.

Chimes and whirlygigs flying in the breeze.

Tiny stones,

most with just one date on them,

a birth and death day.

 

Some are within large family plots,

“to our sweet angel Silvio”

“our daughter Lizzie”

“our beloved baby”

now all cradled in the earth with grandparents, aunts, uncles.

 

Some are not named, an inscription on a bench for all

“children known only to God”.

 

And what of you, my darling girl?

Your ashes reside on a shelf in my house,

but I feel you in these places.

I carry you, my love for you, my sorrow for you,

everywhere.


Here in the cemetery where I learned to ride my bicycle as a child,

where my grandparents and great-grandparents are buried,

my sorrow feels at home.


Do you visit cemeteries? Do you find any comfort there, whether or not your baby is buried in one? Are there other places where your sorrow feels at home, places outside your home where you can be at present with your grief?

 

Monday
Aug182014

a house named grief

Today's guest post comes from Samantha Lyons. She writes, "I am a 25 year old childless mother. I was expecting my first son, a healthy boy grown in a healthy pregnancy, March 23rd, 2014. I delivered him March 27th 'Still.' Cord accident." Samantha blogs at Life After Hayden.

There is a house named Grief filled up like hoarding with all that I cannot have,

which will never belong to me.

Under every floorboard soft blue bonnets and neatly folded sleepers.

In every crevasse crumbs of poignancy.

In every window stains of steamy crying and hot tears.

If you listen closely you can hear the young woman wailing.

Stacks in every room from floor to ceiling of your graduation, your first step, kindergarten finger paintings and that first birth cry I never got to hear.

You can’t walk through the halls you have to hover, there is no room left for feet.

I boarded up the tiny closet, inside the words “No Heartbeat”.

On the front porch an old wicker chair is rocking. It waits for you, it wants to put you to sleep at sunset.

Nothing grows in the garden, and the trembling Weeping Willow on the lawn is me.

 

On the door there is a frantically painted red mark. I screamed in the night searching for the animal, the offering.

I pleaded and bargained and offered trades of all sorts.

Please not this, anything but this.

I am too late.

It has already taken the first-born son who lived here.

 

What is in your grief-house? What have you done with the things--the clothes, the rocking chair--that were to belong to your baby who died?

Sunday
Aug172014

sorry

It's hard to write about grief at four years out. Hard to know what to write here.

I want to tell you that you will never forget your baby.

I want to tell you that you will find a way to move on, grow about the pain.

I want to be the beacon of hope ahead of you, the woman with the life that has not collapsed around the dark matter of the dying star; that I was not sucked in and lost, heavy as the universe and destroyed in a hopeless inward swirling soup of moulten grief.

I want to tell you that you won't forget, that cosmic clutter and home grown atoms seared themselves into your soul and cannot be unwritten.

It feels wrong to write of present grief here. It feels wrong to write of recovery. It feels wrong to be either - healed or unhealed.

I missed my slot here last month. Almost missed it this month.

Grief hauled at me, made me unreliable. I chose to fail to prove that grief had me in its grip and prove that I had outrun it. But the truth is I couldn't feel it. I was numb. No words came. To write badly is the ultimate betrayal of my boy.

I'm held back and pushed forward by grief, by loss, by the bundle of boy in the paper flat pictures, the boy I grew quite perfectly who couldn't live without tube and wire.

You might imagine that pulled in all directions is unfathomable pain but it seems to bring nothing but inertia and dulled senses.

You don't need me, I told myself, because I am both then and now and neither is helpful. At four years out grief absorbed is of no more use than grief worn smeared upon my person and slathered, unwelcome, on every interaction.

Do you want to know that grief is just as painful 4 years on? Do you want to know that 4 years on I cry most often because his loss is so familiar that somedays I do not think of him at all?

Do you want to know you will forget? Do you want to know you never will?

That is my apology. Grief is endless and full of ends. Grief is circular, linear, long and short, impossible and easy, ever present and constantly receeding.

I'm sorry I wasn't here.

***

This morning my living son, born after, brought me Freddie's picture. We don't speak of him here. We are not a family of vivid gesture and outward remembrance. His photos live in my room and nowhere else. I have not wanted to make this youngest child one growing in the shadow of loss. I've never spoke of Freddie to him.

He asked us who the baby was, seemed to know that this was a baby who had not become a person he could place. And then, with uncanny understanding, he gestured to my candle shelf, to the collection of trinkets and gifts I have bought his brother.

"Baby Freddie all gone," he said.

Yes.

He's all gone.

No fine words can alter that.

4 years or not, it feels a giant of a thing to understand.

I don't think it is ever going to change.

What do you hope for as the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to years? Do you have a sense of the resting place you grief should have? Or, how do you accommodate your lost baby or babies in your family? And how do you cope when others from inside or outside your immediate family, step outside your coping parameters?

Tuesday
Aug052014

Here. But where?

A scream. A bloodcurdling, earthshattering scream.

A stare. A lost, opaque stare.

A shudder. A stranded, unforgetting shudder.

The first emerged – is there a word in any language to describe what it did? – on a July morning last year. It came from a flight down from where I was. It came from the center of the earth.

The next has stuck, to walls, floors, ceilings, grass, roads, the sky, and often even my face, every single day of this past year. It is plasticky, and has a shape. It is not colorless either. It seems to be drawing things in, but actually wants to let things go. Everyone. Everything. Go. Go. Go.

The last, a bodily movement. Like a snake in unsuccessful hibernation, wriggling its way out of crevices and holes after a winter of painful alertness, unsure of where to go. It is an earnest attempt to remember, and a desperate attempt to forget, all at once, all in one.

These are expressions. Or their absence. That have come from, and crept in, my husband of twelve and a half years. A bereaved father of a year.

He found her dead. He laid her to rest. He goes to the cemetery. He works. He reads to her big brother at night, and tucks him in. He takes care of me.

He screamed. He stares. He shudders.

 

The words I cherished the most from my husband for the entire nineteen years of knowing him were not “I love you,” or “Will you marry me.” They were “Come here.” He whispered these benign, almost mundane, words to me in a moving train, lying on the lower bunk, half asleep, as a cold January day in 1997 broke outside. Teenaged college students, we were on a clandestine trip to another part of the country, escaping our reality that had been rattled by the sudden death of two beloved friends. We needed comfort, and a change of scene, so my mother secretly sent us, then friends and no more, to my cousin’s house near the west coast of India. The thrill of leaving friends and family in the dark, and the excitement of what lay ahead was a heady, almost unbearably explosive feeling. And yet, on that first morning, as the train blazed through the countryside, all was quiet. Unknown, unborn. I woke up in the rocking train, and made my presence felt by reaching down and touching his arm. He opened his eyes, and looked at me as if from a million years away, and yet within a finger’s distance. “Come here,” he whispered with a fluttering smile.

 

“Come here!” He screamed.

Those exact words. The words that had been sacred, pure, so fragile it almost scared me to remember them. Eighteen years later, on a July morning in 2013, the same words that once weaved our lives together hurled back to me again, to unravel it, strand by strand. They sounded like a visceral grunt, a roar, a call for battle, for disaster. They were the stricken groan of a hunted animal, moments before its fight, its life, is over. The words, the scream hurtled me into space, and I, with my life holding on to my heels, came tumbling down the stairs. The day was breaking outside, and all was quiet again. Known. Dead.

Over the next few hours, and then days, all I would comprehend would be my husband’s words. And his eyes. The same eyes that brought our lives together by asking me to come to him. Forever glistening in a dusky face, and often bloodshot when tired, those eyes have been my Polaris. They were the first thing I now saw in the hospital room after the police officer drove me there. They were red. I saw Raahi, in a pale white bundle, on the distant bed. I collapsed.

“No more knives on her,” he said, declining the autopsy. In the room they took us to, as the ER nurse still held my hand, I remember his words. Back at the hotel, his invisible arms were around me, as I lay in bed and he talked. To social workers, policemen, funeral home people, friends, family, and most of all, he talked to our son. His invisible arms. The invisible umbrella.

He decided that two days later was the day. She would turn three months old that day, it was another Thursday, her birth day. I could not decide if I could go. Again I remember his words, telling me not to, as if they came from a faceless crevice. A gurgle of invisible but omnipresent waters, flowing underneath the rocky surface, the jagged edges. They flowed, the words. And yet they were stilted, like water entering, and then flowing out of, fissures. They sometimes disappeared into the hollow of his mouth. During one such act, I began, “But how can I not …”

Now the waters roared. They poured out with a conviction only those set free but wanting to be contained can enforce. “No, you will not go. You don’t have to, and you can’t. Stay right here. Stay with how you know her. That is not her. Look at me. I don’t have a sense of smell or taste anymore. I can only smell her from the CPR. I can only taste her.” The bloodshot eyes, dead, and all-seeing. The waters of clarity, the powers of a storm, gushing at me, pulling me in, holding me in place. Bobbing, bouncing, but in place.

What place was that! What was the “here” my husband no longer wanted me to leave, as he drove our daughter’s tiny casket to its resting place? Just like I had touched his arm from the top bunk of a moving train, wanting to be one with him, he now took me in by placing his palm on the glass windows of the car as he stopped at the driveway for a moment. I stood up from the chair on the funeral home porch and floated a few paces, holding out my hand. Our eyes met. Our hands met. He did not ask me to come, he wanted me to stay. Stay away, stay apart, stay far from the abyss that he was creeping into, all by himself, alive, wide awake, wildly alert.

And yet, we were together. In a new place, unmeasured by distance. Our last “here” with our daughter. We couldn’t ask her to stay. She didn’t ask us to come.

 

Over the past year, Raahi’s father and I have grieved differently, at a different pace, in a different way. And yet every week, there comes a time when he carries an invisible me, unable to walk, but eager to be borne, to a patch of grass, and sits with me there, our new “here.” He observes and memorizes how the grass is growing into and becoming one with the surrounding ground. He tends to it, planting a pinwheel, organizing a few sticks to mark the space, feeling the wind he always wanted her to feel.

Back home, he shudders often, as if his body disperses his horrific memories into the air around him, and his mind, invisibly, forcibly, desperately, gathers them back into the broken shell he now is. He stares blank with the same eyes, now blunt and lifeless, their brightness inherited by, and forever gone with, a beautiful dusky little girl. His facial muscles taut, his posture gaunt, and his hair standing on its roots, my daughter’s father walks on with me, carrying our two children on his shoulders.

Come here. Stay here. He’s here. But where?

 

How have you rediscovered and redefined your relationship with your partner after losing your baby(ies)? Have your perceptions of each other changed or grown stronger? Do you grieve in the same way, or differently? Do you both have specific roles and responsibilities around your loss, or is it undefined? Are there specific words, phrases or incidents in your story that have assumed a new meaning or dimension after your loss(es)?