There’s a 7lb 9.34oz weight that I’d love to have straddling my neck, pulling hair, using my chin as a rein and laughing giddily as we bounce along, that’s the sort of weight that makes you stand up straight and hold your head up high. Do you have a strong image of yourself with your baby(ies) before your loss? How did you imagine that parenting the baby(ies) you lost would change your life? How has your loss redefined the roles you have in your life?Read More
We are honored today to present a guest post by Romina. She is a sometimes teacher, all times mother, living with the loss of her third son. Ellis Tilde Asuro was born still on November 21, 2013.
I gave birth to death.
That is not a metaphor.
I gave birth to death
and I don’t know how to wean him.
They hint at it. It’s time to let him go.
They don’t speak his name.
I’ve been told he’s getting too old for this.
If I don’t do it now, this may go on forever.
I pushed death out of me and he stopped being mine.
I pushed death out of me and I stopped being his.
In the nine months since, I could have made a living child.
And in the nine months since, I could have learned to let him go.
But in a whole lifetime, I could not create enough life to
bring him near. I could not transform him into the living.
Has anyone told you it's time to move on? How do you respond?
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?
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.
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?
"There it is"-- I surprised myself with how excited that came out.
"I see it."
I let the credits roll to the end, then rewound to pause with our son's name just crossing the sea-sky horizon line. Over a year ago, on his 6th anniversary in fact, we contributed to the Kickstarter campaign for a movie called Return to Zero. They had a crazy-good cast and a babylost dad for a writer-director. I hoped they'd get it right.
Turns out, a lot happens for a movie between the end editing and when the general public gets to see it. For this movie, that included being pitched to various film festivals, and eventually being selected for two. And even more eventually, a deal for TV distribution, on Lifetime.
We couldn't watch the movie the night that it premiered-- we had a friend staying the weekend, and this was something we had to watch just by ourselves. So we recorded it and watched it on a weeknight. And I've been trying to figure out how to talk about it ever since.
A few days before we watched the movie, I read online someone talking about how her family is split into readers and not-so-much-with-the-reading individuals. People in the latter category, she said, believe that if a book is any good, eventually someone will make a movie of it. The first thought that popped into my head was "but what if the book is your life?" Not in the way that some books inspire entire fandoms, but in the very literal sense of key event in this movie is also a key event in your life, and the movie is about that?
People have serious, long, branching arguments about how much liberty filmmakers are allowed to take with source material, and about how changing this one thing here completely destroys the narrative from the book. I've witnessed a fair share of these discussions, heck-- participated in more than a few myself. But what if there is no canonical narrative? What if the world is splintered into a million versions of the story? I so wanted them to get it right. And suddenly, just on the precipice of watching the movie, I realized that "getting it right" was a lot to ask. Because what I was actually asking for was for them to have gotten it right for me, for how I see the world, for how I experienced my son's death. There's a lot of us out there. And while there are the bits of living with your child(ren)'s death(s) that I'd describe as classic hits, there are also parts that are far less universal.
I realized that I both wanted the movie to be good and needed it to be good-- after all, my son's name is literally attached to it. That is a combustible mixture, and sitting on it was making me apprehensive. Because what if it isn't good? What if going forward I wouldn't be able to refer an asshat to that movie for clarification? What if, instead, an asshat would be able to use it as ammunition?
Knowing that we were going to watch the movie, Monkey asked me to pause the screen at the end with her brother's name on it. The next morning I turned the TV on for her to see. As she studied the screen, she asked whether the movie was good. I skipped a beat, unsure how to answer.
Because here's the thing. Minnie Driver is impossibly great. She had perfect pitch, hitting the exact right note with her face and her body every millisecond she was on screen. Bewilderment, anger, frustration, indignation, determination, indifference, shock, and-- and I have no words for how deeply I appreciate that she could play this so exactly right-- the hollowing grief. Twice during the movie I made JD chuckle by yelling out "Fuck you, lady!" a beat before Minnie's character delivered a more dignified and more appropriate retort. The plot of the movie doesn't exactly match our story, relationships in the movie are not exactly like the ones in our extended family. But the cast is great and they get at the emotional truths of the life after so well that the context in which they operate doesn't much matter.
Except for this one thing, one scene really. The scene that goes straight to the million fractured versions of the story issue. See, one of the foundational views of my life after is that for me there is absolutely nothing in the plus column of A's death. I was already a pretty kick ass mother, and I certainly didn't get to be "more available" to my living children, either the one who was already here when A died or the two who came after, because he died.
If I was to name one good thing that I found in the after-space that I wouldn't have had if A lived, without a doubt I would name the community of babylost parents. The people I met online and in person in those first desperate months, and who are still my friends now, seven years on. This community at large. It sucks that we are here, AND I am glad to know you. But that's me. And I didn't make the movie, writer-director Sean Hannish did. And I get that the scene represents a true and important understanding in his narrative.
I told Monkey that the movie was good, that I only had one real issue with it, and for a movie on this sensitive a subject only having one issue is not bad at all. Fortunately for me, I don't see the character who articulates this view as central to the narrative, and I certainly don't think the scene is. When my DVD arrives, I will skip over that scene. Julia's cut, if you will.
Had you heard about the movie before it aired? Did you see it? What did you think?
More generally, have you ever had to render judgement on a project that hit close to home, whether in the babylost realm or not? How did you feel going in? How did it turn out?
Jen’s second daughter Anja was stillborn in January 2012. Anja has an older sister, E, and a baby brother, M. Jen wrote this on the 22-month anniversary of Anja’s death. She blogs at March is for Daffodils, where this post first appeared. We are so grateful Jen is here at Glow today as a guest writer.
This morning on the walk to kindergarten, E and I talked about how we would buy flowers after school, flowers for Anja on the 14th.
‘Anja is an angel, Mommy,’ E said, full of the authority of a nearly-five-year-old going-to-schooler.
‘Do you think so, sweetie?’ I asked, non-committally.
‘I think so. But, actually, Mommy what is an angel exactly?’
‘Well, some people believe that there is a place called Heaven, which is where you live after you die, and when you are there, you are an angel,’ I explained.
‘Do you believe that Mommy?'
‘I believe that Anja’s spirit has gone into all the living things,’ I said. ‘I believe that she is in all the beautiful things we see around us.’ (Do I? Do I?)
E thinks about this for a while, smiling. Then she looks up at me and says, ‘Mommy, I really hope Anja is not a zombie.’
Christ, kid, what are they teaching you at school?
‘She’s not a zombie, love. I know that for sure.’
‘How do you know?’ E is genuinely worried.
‘Because zombies are just a story. Some grownups like to tell stories about things that scare them, but they’re not real.’
‘OK, Mommy.’ We hold hands and walk down the tree-lined block. At the corner, we run into a little boy from her class and his mother and baby sister. E and Z start talking excitedly to each other. For some reason, the topic of zombies comes up again, and it turns out there is some movie character(?) zombie who is funny(??) and can talk to dead people(???). E and Z start chanting, ‘I can talk to dead people. I can talk to dead people.’ Z’s mom smiles at the zaniness of children; I try not to grimace. My poor kid. She wishes she could talk to dead people; she knows death in a way that it is obvious very few of her peers do. ‘I know, Z,’ she says, ‘let’s go to a place where people get dead and we can talk to them.’ I wonder what she would say? I wonder where she thinks that place is? I wonder how her nearly-five-year-old mind reconciles the real death she has experienced and this fascination with death that so many of her friends are exploring.
We go into her classroom, hang up her coat and switch her rubber boots for indoor shoes. The classroom is cheerful and noisy; her teacher is happy to see her. Every morning, for the first fifteen minutes of the day, families are welcome to stay and participate in what the teacher calls ‘Noisy Reading.’ I love this time of day. We find a cozy spot and E picks out a book called ‘Chestnut Dreams.’ I open the book and start reading… Anya. The little girl in the book’s name is Anya and she has curly chestnut hair and green eyes and E looks at me in wonder. ‘Her name is Anya. Maybe that is my baby sister. That is what she looked like if she didn’t get dead.’ We read the story. I say the name Anya over and over and over again and it feels good. To have an excuse. To use the name without worrying that I will make someone uncomfortable, without being made to feel morbid or strange.
The special helper rings the book bell and it is time to put the books away and say goodbye. E says ‘hi’ to her friend, I, who is absorbed in saying goodbye to her mother and doesn’t respond. There is a flash of hurt in E’s eyes, but she runs over to another friend, D, and says, ‘D, do you want to sit next to me?’ D crosses her arms over her chest, her face furious, and yells in E’s face, ‘No!’ That is it for E; she comes back to me, her face crumpling and reddening. She buries her head in my lap and sobs.
And I wonder, as I always do, how much of it is what we see on the surface – rejection by friends; the start of a busy day – and how much of it is what she knows and keeps secret when she is out in her world – the death of her sister, the sadness in her family?
I offer to take her outside, for a hug and a chat, but she rallies, wants to stay and finds someone else to sit beside. She waves and smiles as M and I go.
M falls asleep in his carrier on the walk home, so I veer away toward the water, get a coffee and walk under the red and yellow trees by the seawall. The ocean is glassy, grey, still. It is a beautiful morning. I turn back up the park path toward our building. I look into the red leaves of the Japanese maple trees. I think about how I told E that her sister is in all the living things. I try to believe it. I practice: I say, tentatively, quietly, yearningly, ‘Hello, sweet girl, my love, my baby.’ I whisper it to the tree, to the sky, and finally, the tears come.
Where do you believe your baby is now? What do you want to believe?
If you have living children, how do you explain death and afterlife to your children?