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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
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)?

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"?