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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
Jul282014

never asked

How’s M.? they ask.

How’s that baby?

 

And then the barrage:

Is she sleeping through the night yet?

Are you sleep-deprived?

Are you just exhausted?

How’s A. doing?

And sometimes, even,

How are you?

 

But never the question I—

absurdly, truthfully—

yearn to hear:

How is Joseph?

 

Never asked.

 

How is Joseph?

 

Never sleeping through the night.

Never waking to nurse.

Never that first smile,

a laugh,

a scootch then a crawl.

Never those first steps.

 

How is Joseph? I ask.

 

Never running

full tilt,

head down,

the way little boys are supposed to.

 

How is Joseph?

 

Dead.

 

The litany of my family—

mama,

mommy,

baby M.—

never complete.

 

Do you bring up the baby(ies) you lost in conversation? When you talk about your absent children, what do you say? What do you wish others asked?

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?