special powers

In the early days of shock and tears, my husband reached his last straw in trying to comfort me: she loves us—she would want us to be happy. I couldn’t believe him. It sounded so strange and wrong. She was dead, and a baby. How could she want anything for her parents? But he believed it. He felt her with him.

I haven’t heard from her in a long time. I could tell you that we once had a long talk, or that I saw the spiritual path her soul is on. But now those communication lines seem dead, so I fall back on logic. I say I don’t believe in signs, that my baby does not have special powers, and that she can’t communicate with us.

So have I become a rational creature now? Or are my feelings just hurt by the silence?

* * * * * *

Other parents see signs. In a precious moment, they notice clouds or rainbows or lightning bugs and think, this is for me from him or her, or my child has something to do with why this is so beautiful.

I envy that belief, because it eludes me. If I could see my daughter in the trees or hear her on the wind, maybe I would not be so lonely and angry. But it doesn’t work for me anymore. My child can’t be trying to contact me, because she is a baby. Not an angel. Not a fairy. A baby.  Her little fingers can’t operate the paranormal phone system. She can’t align the stars or send me a butterfly. She’s too little.

I don’t like hearing that she wants me to go on or wants me to know she is okay; that only points to my massive maternal failure. All she should be thinking about right now is snacks, cuddles, toys, and trying to pull herself up to standing. Not how to make Mom feel better. If she were alive, she would not want the best for me. She would want me to find her damn pacifier right now. That’s how I want it too. I want me to be the mommy, and her to be the baby. Still. Even though she’s dead.

And please God, or whoever is out there, do not let my baby be a ghost, wandering between this world and the next. Please let her be someplace safe.

* * * *

On the other hand, I have had messages. And I’ve imbued her with a very special power: the power to leave me.

In the hospital I began, irrationally, to worry that she did not like me very much. Her little face was so frowny, her lips so pouty. She looked mad. (Maybe they all look that way?) Holding her in my arms, this is what popped into my heart:

She needed unconditional love. Something bad happened to her, maybe in a past life, and she needed to know that Brian and I loved her absolutely purely. She wanted love untainted by the scoldings, power struggles, and tears that come with being a human child. By leaving us so early, she was assured of our white hot love forever. It would heal her, so her soul could go on. But it would break me, and I would have to accept it.

I had one visit from her after that. A friend did a spiritual healing on me a few weeks later; the smell of strawberries wafted through my living room on a cold March morning, and we both felt it was my baby saying hello. I could envision fields of the spindly green plants heavy with fruit, and how much my girl would delight in them. Later I planted a pot of hearty alpine berries and got a strawberry tattooed on my ankle, her name hidden in the leaves.

Since then, there has been silence. She feels utterly gone to me, and I feel rejected. I may say it is not her job to comfort me, yet I sit here like a spurned lover, hoping for the phone to ring. This is my deep dark secret—that I am kind of mad at my baby for dying. That I am kind of mad she never calls.

Photo by VanCityAllie

* * * * * * *

Why did I make up this terrible story about her needing to leave us? For a while it felt like a message from her soul, or from God or the great beyond. As the days have worn on, without answers, without comfort, my faith in most things of a spiritual nature has dissipated. Now I think it was just my brain trying to make sense of an incomprehensible event.

I’m not sure this was the best story to tell myself, though. It gives her the power to choose death over life. The power to abandon her parents. The power to hurt us intentionally. All of which is insane. She was a tiny baby inside my body. A very bad thing happened to her, and we don’t know why.

Maybe that’s just too much for my heart to take. I would prefer to think that she never wanted to be here, than to think she is out there in the dark crying for her mommy. I’d rather say that we do not get clouds and hearts and stars from her, because she’d rather be free. That’s easier to face than the plastic bag of ashes upstairs.  

Most of all, I need to believe that this experience is far worse for me than it is for her, because I just can’t stomach any other option.

So some days I try hard to think of her as happy. I try to see her as part of everything, reveling in the universe, sending love to our family every day. Usually I can’t. So instead I absolve her of all responsibility—it is one way communication down that parental, paranormal phone line. If she’s anywhere, I hope she can hear that I love her.

* * * * * * * *

Have you received signs or messages that help you connect to your child(ren)? Was there a particular window of time when you felt most connected that is now closed? What are the stories you tell yourself to help make sense of your loss(es)?  

i went crazy

On the day I'm to introduce our last new writer, Jenni of Demeter's Feet, I go to her blog and the first thing I see is this:

"Today is peaceful. I am writing. I am remembering. I am tending my baby's strawberries. I am sad, but I had my meltdowns earlier this week. Distractedly burned a giant batch of nachos one night, sobbed over pasta and sauteed zucchini the next. Have been by turns irritable, angry, quiet, exhausted. All the usual stuff. All the normal stuff. It doesn't worry me anymore. It's just how it goes..."

And I have all I need to in order to make the welcome. This is why we're all here, is it not? We're honoured to have Jenni's kind soul among us as a regular contributor.

~ Kate

 

On Route 28, a few blocks from my house, there is a drinking water dispenser. It's wedged into the corner of a shopping plaza between the Natural Food Mart and Plaster Fun Time. Its bright blue awning advertises "Pure Water," and a sign states that it has been U/V filtered seven times to remove all chlorine, bacteria, and impurities. It costs 25 cents a gallon, and you have to bring your own jugs.

After our loss, I got obsessed with this water machine. When I drove down 28 I would pull into the plaza, get out of my car, and stare at it. Was this water really pure? Was it really healthier than my tap water? Who put it there? How did I know it was really filtered seven times? What if it was dangerous?

I asked in the natural food store, but they didn't know anything about it. Google and the Plaster Fun Time people didn't know anything either. A notice tacked to the machine indicated it was regularly inspected by someone, but the last signature was dated several months earlier. In fine print was a phone number, which I called but got no answer.

Meanwhile I was drinking my tap water at home. With every glass I wondered, Am I making myself sick? Too sick to carry another baby? Is this water what killed her? Would the water machine be better? Or is it a scam, unregulated, unhealthy?

photo by calignosus

That blue awning became my Zoltar. In my mixed-up grief brain it held some answer, some clue to my fate. I wanted it to grant my wish of perfect, fertile health. But I was skeptical. I began stalking it, doing slow drive-bys, squinting at it out the car window, going out of my way to cruise past the plaza. Once, seeing a car there, I wheeled into the parking lot and flagged down the elderly couple who had just loaded up their jugs and were trying to back out.

Excuse me, I'm sorry, but do you know anything about this water?

Well, we've been drinking it for years, and it hasn't killed us yet!

What should my follow up question have been? Do you think tap water killed my baby? Do you think the Zoltar water will keep my next baby safe?

The notion that a person can go mad with grief has been around for millennia. And there are images in literature and film of mommies who go mad after losing a child. So, I knew this was a thing. I just didn’t expect it to look like this.

Weeping? Wailing? Throwing stuff? Sure, I’ve done that. But that’s sadness, not madness. It’s sadness, and helplessness, and anger, and even though it makes me feel so separated from “other” people, I know it is normal. A really normal response to my baby dying. That’s not crazy.

It’s the other stuff that worries me. Finding a bag of books in my closet and having zero recollection of who gave them to me. Looking down at my dinner plate to find I have been chewing on processed ham slices after years of being a near-vegetarian. Avoiding the gym because too much exercise can cause miscarriage or start labor (while being not at all pregnant). Stressing about a family paddle on a very small pond, because I keep picturing everyone drowning. Waylaying the elderly in parking lots. Fearing the tap water. Did I lose my mind as well as my kid?

It’s been about year since my last Zoltar drive-by—eventually I got fed up with myself and bought a Brita filter. And I’m sitting here now wondering how I’m doing. There is no babyloss measuring stick to gauge a return to sanity, a return to functional personhood. It’s been 17 months since goodbye, and this week, in a perfect world, she would have turned one. Today my mind is calmer but still thick with grief. So I have to wonder, what crazy thing am I doing now?

We still don’t know why I went into labor at 20 weeks. According to the doctors, there are ten reasons, and there are no reasons. And isn’t that enough to make a person nuts? But we do know it wasn’t something I drank.

* * * * *

What does your crazy look like? Does it scare you? Is it an ally, giving you permission to act outside the box? What do you do with other people who think you are crazy? What elements of grieving have made you feel most isolated and separate? What elements have made you feel the most normal, human, and sane?


why me?

Throughout the journey of losing my child, I have never asked myself, Why me?

Honestly, it’s just not a question I ask. Not because I wonder but won’t let myself ask. But because I could just as easily ask, Why not me? And because I already know the answer(s).

Why me? Because Tikva needed me as her mother, to love and hold her on her BIG journey.

Why me? Because there was a part deep inside me that was calling out – even if I didn’t know it – to be cracked open, stretched and expanded in this way.

Why me? Because even when I doubted it, Life knew I could do this.

Why me? Because I have boundless love and compassion – for my children, my family, my friends, in supporting others.

Why me? Because only through this could I become more fully me.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t trade it all in for a healthy, living Tikva toddling around me right now, nudging me off the computer and into a game of blocks with her. I would’ve been quite fine continuing on my way a bit less stretched, my soul less expanded, less fully myself.

But those are not the cards I got, and I want to remain in the game. So I’m making the best of the hand I’m holding now. As it turns out, I’ve got better cards than I thought.

***

I have wondered a lot if it’s all just about outlook, the color of the lenses on the glasses we choose to put on each day.

It’s easy when you’ve lost a child to go to that place of feeling like the person who got hit by lightning. What are the odds? In my case, they were somewhere between 1 in 2,500 and 1 in 5,000. That’s how often a child is born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Me, I’m the one. 2,500 to 5,000 times more likely to be the majority, but this time I was the one. ONE.

It struck me sometime after Tikva died just how lucky I was that Dahlia, my first child, was born healthy and with no complications. What are the odds of that? One in how many? And my second pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage at 10 weeks – 1 in 4. Pretty high odds, but at the time I was utterly dumbstruck. Me? This happened to ME? I had to laugh about that when I learned that I’d made 1 in 5,000.

Back to outlook… I could look at that in so many different ways:

I must be the most unlucky mother in the whole world.

Someone out there must think really highly of me to be paying so much attention to my little self and giving me so many *$%@#! challenges.

What did I do to deserve this? Did I do something wrong?

The odds could be even smaller, I could be one in ten million.

The Universe is a random place, and shit happens.

Somebody has to be the one.

***

There is so much ego in this business of making sense of loss. So much ME in it all. So much of my busy mind trying to rationalize the irrational, comprehend the incomprehensible. Trying to fit something messy and confusing into a neat little container that can be shut and put away on a shelf, retrieved and reopened as needed.

I don’t think it works that way, though. I can put all of Tikva’s things – the physical reminders of her existence – in boxes in a beautiful wooden chest and keep it close by. But the meaning of it all – the WHY – isn’t so cooperative. And the answers don’t seem to come from my busy mind. From my ego.

Sometimes I ask Tikva…

Why me, Tikva? Because I needed you to hold me and look into my eyes and speak to me and kiss me, to lift me up.

Why me, Tikva? Because you are special, Mama.

Why me, Tikva? Because others will need your help.

Why me, Tikva? I don’t know, Mama, but I’m glad it was you.

***

I sat in a park in Jerusalem with Dave, just weeks before Tikva was conceived. It was sunny and warm and we lay in the grass under a tree.

I said to him, “I want to get pregnant.”

“When?” he asked.

“Now. Soon. This month.” It was just before Rosh Hashanah.

I was absolutely and completely sure. Ready. I had no idea why, but I was sure. Maybe Tikva was whispering in my ear. Maybe there was a part of me that was calling out, unknowing, for the journey ahead. It took us only one try.

If we had waited another month, would it have been Tikva? Would our child have been healthy? We didn’t wait another month. I don’t believe we could have.

Why me? Because this is my story. Tikva is my child. The only child I could have created in that moment in time.

It’s just not a question I ask myself, maybe because if it hadn’t been me, I would never have had a child like Tikva. And I would never have learned to love in quite the same way.

.::.

What are the questions you ask? Do you have answers? Where do the answers come from? How would you lost child(ren) answer your questions?

The passing-through of necessary spaces

The passing-through of necessary spaces

One day, you breathe. And you know that, despite not being fashionable or palatable, you are more compassionate now than you ever were before. You know how surreal it is to cradle an urn in rush hour traffic. You are all at once a giant and a meek, trembling, spitting thing. You know now to embrace both. You know that it's not your fault that some people can't bear the taste of black licorice.

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replacement

 

With our surrogate, Kyrie, just a few weeks away from what we hope will be the safe delivery of our son, I've been thinking a lot about the relationship between this possible new baby and the twins we lost a little more than two years ago. Of course, this new child can't be a literal replacement for the twins. But there's less to distinguish them than one might think.

 Part of that is simply the mechanics of IVF. One afternoon in April 2006, on the third floor of a big hospital in the Northeast, ten embryos were coaxed into being. Curled in their petri dishes, cells dividing, the embryos, from my point of view, were interchangeable. I hoped that at least one of them would grow to be my child, but I didn't care which one and I didn't give much thought to what would happen to the others.

The doctors chose two embryos -- call them A and B -- to transfer and froze the rest. A and B became the twins and we all know how that turned out. So, in April 2008, they unfroze embryo C, which is now, at least theoretically, the baby due at the beginning of January.

Although the selection of which embryos to transfer wasn't entirely random, chance clearly played the guiding role. Right now, I could just as easily be mourning the loss of embryos D and E or cautiously celebrating the impending arrival of F. And that cascade of contingencies make it that much harder to attach significance to the individual identity of any of them.

Moreover, over time, the twins themselves have become mostly an abstraction. I have almost no actual memories of them -- a positive pregnancy test, a dozen increasingly ominous ultrasounds, a month or two or flutters and kicks. What memories I do have are really about myself, my hopes, my wishes, my painting an imaginary future in pastel shades of pink and blue. And, though much more hesitantly, I find myself now thinking almost the identical thoughts, transferring the old dreams to this new child and wondering whether I can see this child -- at least in some non-literal way -- as one of the twins returned to me.

Because I tend to think in metaphors, and extended and heavy-handed ones at that, let me put it this way. Imagine you're looking into a series of lighted kitchen windows at dinnertime. In one lucky house, all the chairs at the table are filled with cheerful family members. In the house next door, there are chairs with no-one sitting in them, but you notice that they're drawn close to the table, still part of the family circle. In yet another house, the table at first seems full, but if you look in the next room, you'll find the unused chairs carefully, lovingly stored away.

And then, in the house I hope one day to live in, there's a chair that, in the manner of Schrödinger's cat is simultaneously occupied and empty.  And in it sits a little boy who is at once here and, well, absolutely elsewhere.

 

Your thoughts on the concept of the replacement child? A dangerous or unfair idea? An understandable rationalization? Something in between?

What does your dinner table look like?

reason

There is this forest road some forty minutes away from our cabin. The first time we drove it to check out the sights, it was a few months after our baby died. Sensing how we all need the solace and silence of nature, my husband R packed us all into the car for a drive. The views astounded us. The silence, and the liveliness of it all. And, to see large fields of ferns, growing amongst soldiers of trees, was simply an unforgettable sight, for us used to the gray and brown and small foliage of the desert.

Recently, we took the drive again. I wanted to show you some pictures, but none portrayed the grandness and nonchalance of the place. It is rugged, yet regal. Very quiet. So still, yet brimming over with life (and decay, of course). The forest road runs at a high altitude, so there are several points where you stop and look out over massive areas densely crowded with trees, across mesas and often eye-to-eye with the clouds. You feel you stand almost at the top of the world, centuries-old rocks supporting you. The ground beneath feels solid, after centuries of movement. It feels strong, after it learned to move with the currents of time and forces of nature. Sweet little colorful flowers bloom here and there to contrast with the earth-old trees and rocks.

Here, along the road, amongst the ancient and the transient, I could feel Ferdinand's spirit very intimately. I knew that I am surrounded by the wholeness of his spirit, even his body. I felt then that he was not lost somewhere, or forever, but here, in the present, at one with the nature and the universe, breathing with me everywhere I go. And here, for an instant, I felt that a reason did not matter anymore.

:::::::::::::::::::

For a long time after he died, I wanted a reason. Desperately. Holding the one page pathological report in my hands, I googled furiously for answers. Those laconic yet loaded terms, within them must be encoded the answer to the mystery of his death.

But I did not find any answers. Not at all.

I searched my brains for things I did and did not do through the 40 weeks that I carried him, and tried to find a reason. Why? Because I felt it would give me some control. If it is because I ate shrimps, then, the next time I shall not touch a shrimp and all shall be fine.

Except I know that is wishful thinking. If only it could be that easy, to have that reassurance. Something else could of course happen.

A reason was so important, so I could hold someone (that is, me) or something, accountable. So I can be on the other side, in control and be all-knowing.

Slowly, gradually, I know that an answer, or a reason, may well just serve as a blind. Just something to give me a false sense of control. Just something to give me the illusion that I know the answer to questions that never shall have answers.

So, sometimes, I feel, there is no need for an answer. Because then there is no false perception of being in control. Then there is no illusion that I hold the key to a door that I can open for others. Sometimes, when immersed in the quiet prowess of nature, I feel that no reason is necessary, only love.

But, only sometimes.

Do you seek a reason? How? Why? If you found a reason, did it help?