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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.

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Thursday
May092013

the other way

Some scientists say there are parallel worlds, realities stacked side by side like books on a shelf, or piled high in an old, dusty attic.  That seems obvious to me now that I have a whole other life hidden in my head.

The day went smoothly, the birth long but ultimately raw and right and beautiful and true.  Those first insane and breathtaking days when Silas was in our arms and screaming in our ears and staring into our eyes seemed to pass instantly and slowly, all at once.  The uncertainty of new-parenthood was a knot of fear and hope and determination in the core of my being.  I was positive I was the happiest person in the entire world, but then I'd look at my wife Lu as she breast-fed him, and I wasn't quite so sure.  Maybe the happiest man on Earth, I thought, settling for that and into the couch next to their bonded bliss.

Weeks turned to months and already a big baby, he grew fast on mom's milk.  I learned to change diapers, to hear the language of his wailing cries in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the everything.  The middle of everything, that's exactly what he was whether he was awake or asleep, or whether I was, too. He slept well.  He was ahead of the curve.  Naps were long and pleasant.  He weaned easily and ate everything.  He learned to talk early and told us things I could never imagine.

On it goes, that impossible world, each day we didn't live that way seared into my mind as time pressed on.

The not-so-funny-part is that I had to make it all up before Zeph came along, but now I know exactly, specifically, precisely every single fucking detail of everything that we missed and everything we won't have. That parallel world I first inhabited wasn't just a figment of my imagination, it was the only salve to my damaged soul.  Simply accepting this world with all of its not-Silas-ness was a physical impossibility. I fantasized that whole other way as I cried and drove or lay stewing wide awake deep in the night, not hearing the wails of my dead son.

For years I was a shadow of myself, a projection of what I should be, even as half of me was gone within, wading into the deep deep deep waters of grief and anger, of loss and pain, of utter and complete rage that the midwives had failed us, that this is how the Universe rolls, and that it had just rolled right over us squashing us to nothingness and drowning us in tears.

But when Zeph was born, everything began to change in that parallel world.  Instead of feeling split in two, divided equally between the what-is and what-should, I had to focus strongly on the life in front of me.  Silas as his three year old older brother was harder to see than the baby we never had, and now the baby we did.  As Zeph grew day by day and the fantasy vision of Silas's life was shattered on the shrieks and laughter of an actual baby, I felt that other way slowly fade and dissolve, merging into the single path we now tread.

It is a relief to be whole, even with the hole.  Living halfway in a hope that could never be was maddening and exhausting.  Silas is gone.  Zeph is here.  In order for Zephyr to have the joyful life I want him to have, the only thing I can do is to be here with him, all the time.

But that other life is in me, still.  Still I grieve.  Still.

~~~~~~~~~~~

What do your parallel worlds look like?  How much time do you spend there?  Is there a certain time of day or part of your life where you feel the life you never had more strongly? How do you reconcile what you wanted with what you have?

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Reader Comments (16)

I write about my parallel life all the time. It seems so tangible, so real, like just a thin, see-through (impossible to penetrate) vale separates my life now from that other life that still continues. My daughter is a newborn right now, we are getting to know each other, I am so and tired but happy. I have no idea what it's like to be a baby loss mom. I can't even imagine. I have a pregnancy and birth story that is fun to tell. Everything is right in the world, and I hardly realize how right.

This world seems ever present to me, I am aware of its existence as an amputee is aware of a phantom limb. It's reality seems just as present as the current reality. It is a place that surely exists but that I can never visit, except in dreams.c
May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdith
I write about my parallel life all the time. It seems so tangible, so real, like just a thin, see-through (impossible to penetrate) vale separates my life now from that other life that still continues. My daughter is a newborn right now, we are getting to know each other, I am so and tired but happy. I have no idea what it's like to be a baby loss mom. I can't even imagine. I have a pregnancy and birth story that is fun to tell. Everything is right in the world, and I hardly realize how right.

This world seems ever present to me, I am aware of its existence as an amputee is aware of a phantom limb. It's reality seems just as present as the current reality. It is a place that surely exists but that I can never visit, except in dreams.c
May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEdith
There is a parallel universe where we are mothering Joseph. But I can't see it. I have trouble imagining it. At first, I told myself it was too painful to try to imagine. Better to stay fully here, in this dark reality. Then I wondered what was wrong with me, not to be able to picture Joseph in this house, what I would be doing, where we would be standing, the noises he would make. When we first came home from the hospital, we talked about how it felt like the train tracks had been switched on us, and now we were hurtling in another direction. All I can do is crane my neck for a glimpse out the window of what would have been. But eventually the view is out of sight. Sometimes now I try to make up what might be happening over there on the other track, but mostly what I conjure is his tiny little body, the feel of him in my belly, the intense love that surrounds those things.
May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBurning Eye
I have this parallel universe where my daughter is alive and growing and her daddy is alive to see it.
I spend more time there than I should.
As I make dinner I pretend I'm making it for them and not just me.
As I settle in to watch TV for the evening I pretend Mia's daddy is wrapped around me and Mia is in my arms.
As I sit in our empty house I imagine talking to them, babbling to my baby and cooing about how big she's getting and remarking about her progress with her father.
Mostly I think about this parallel world when I'm alone. That's when the feeling of missing is the most.
May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEmily C
Thank you for writing this. I've been feeling a lot of this recently. About this other life that I would have been living if only... And feeling like our family of three will never feel complete, like it was always meant to be a family of four. It's heartbreaking. But one child doesn't fill the void of the other child. They are different and unique experiences and people. I love them both. And wish that on this mother's day, that they were both here with me. No card with bunnies on it, well wishes from strangers, or family brunch, can fill that void. And no, it's not my first mother's day. That was last year, 5 months after we lost our boy.
May 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercbp
Thank you for writing this. I've been feeling a lot of this recently. About this other life that I would have been living if only... And feeling like our family of three will never feel complete, like it was always meant to be a family of four. It's heartbreaking. But one child doesn't fill the void of the other child. They are different and unique experiences and people. I love them both. And wish that on this mother's day, that they were both here with me. No card with bunnies on it, well wishes from strangers, or family brunch, can fill that void. And no, it's not my first mother's day. That was last year, 5 months after we lost our boy.
May 11, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercbp
Thanks for this post, Chris. Thinking over your words here has made made me realize that the parallel worlds I see now have changed in ways I wouldn't have anticipated. I used to visit that parallel life where Teddy lived fairly often - I could see and feel it so clearly - first smiles, first holidays, the beautiful and beloved weight of my baby in my arms. After T's sister was born I still snuck glimpses. But as my daughter has grown older I mostly catch these flashes of a world where they are able to grow up together.

I miss my son, miss parenting him, but most of my anger these days is for Dot, because she lost her brother and playmate, lost him before she was even born. I can see him holding her hand. I can see them racing around the playground, catch ghost giggles of them making it difficult for each other to fall asleep at night. And I want that so much some days that it knocks the wind out of me. I look at my girl - so full of life and love and joy and I just *know* how much she would have loved her big brother, how he would have loved her back.
May 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica
Thanks for this post, Chris. Thinking over your words here has made made me realize that the parallel worlds I see now have changed in ways I wouldn't have anticipated. I used to visit that parallel life where Teddy lived fairly often - I could see and feel it so clearly - first smiles, first holidays, the beautiful and beloved weight of my baby in my arms. After T's sister was born I still snuck glimpses. But as my daughter has grown older I mostly catch these flashes of a world where they are able to grow up together.

I miss my son, miss parenting him, but most of my anger these days is for Dot, because she lost her brother and playmate, lost him before she was even born. I can see him holding her hand. I can see them racing around the playground, catch ghost giggles of them making it difficult for each other to fall asleep at night. And I want that so much some days that it knocks the wind out of me. I look at my girl - so full of life and love and joy and I just *know* how much she would have loved her big brother, how he would have loved her back.
May 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica
Wow... I can't even remember how I stumbled upon this page (every other day I seem to browse for grieving parents or comforting things), but oh so grateful I did. It's difficult to tell people these things in person, even when you know they won't judge you or think you're crazy.
Just to back track a tad, my son passed in February, 10months old. I was alone with him, husband deployed, 3 year old sister visiting an Aunt. Today, something was triggered in my mind... The memory of being alone (no one at the E.R. with me yet) & they pronounced my son & asked if I wanted to see him... Of course?! It was something straight out of a dramatic movie, seeing his teeny body on the gurney, face covered by the pump they were using for CPR. And two rows on each side of him... Doctors, nurses....
My body went into the paralyzed feeling. I stood there in the shower, being unable to move, crying for God knows how long. Everything came back as it always does... From the second I woke up & found him to all events leading up to & even after his funeral -- every detail. It's the longest yet quickest flash of memory all at once killing me from the inside... It's these moments I hate having such precise photographic memory... Then the thing that got me out of the suffocating bawling was that little spark of the parallel world. I knew my daughter would eventually hear me crying & that's when I saw him. My son who should be walking & at least calling me by name, put his hands up against the glass of the shower, laughing & trying to get to me... It's a beautiful thing to have this & I'm so happy I'm not alone.
Wow... I can't even remember how I stumbled upon this page (every other day I seem to browse for grieving parents or comforting things), but oh so grateful I did. It's difficult to tell people these things in person, even when you know they won't judge you or think you're crazy.
Just to back track a tad, my son passed in February, 10months old. I was alone with him, husband deployed, 3 year old sister visiting an Aunt. Today, something was triggered in my mind... The memory of being alone (no one at the E.R. with me yet) & they pronounced my son & asked if I wanted to see him... Of course?! It was something straight out of a dramatic movie, seeing his teeny body on the gurney, face covered by the pump they were using for CPR. And two rows on each side of him... Doctors, nurses....
My body went into the paralyzed feeling. I stood there in the shower, being unable to move, crying for God knows how long. Everything came back as it always does... From the second I woke up & found him to all events leading up to & even after his funeral -- every detail. It's the longest yet quickest flash of memory all at once killing me from the inside... It's these moments I hate having such precise photographic memory... Then the thing that got me out of the suffocating bawling was that little spark of the parallel world. I knew my daughter would eventually hear me crying & that's when I saw him. My son who should be walking & at least calling me by name, put his hands up against the glass of the shower, laughing & trying to get to me... It's a beautiful thing to have this & I'm so happy I'm not alone.
I'm at work now and am realizing it's been close to 4 weeks since I held my baby boy. This pain, it crushes you. I just want to hold him, love him.

I told my husband it feels like Groundhog day every morning - realizing things will never be the same. It makes me sick.

Yet I want his memory and legacy to be one of love. I see him as an angel up in heaven, taking orders and helping people. The people in this world need a lot of help. I write to him, things I would tell him over coffee. It makes me happy to have that connection with him and I pray for faith and hope that he's actually out there doing God's will, and sometimes listening and checking up on us..
June 5, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercynthiasolc
Just. Beautiful. Thank you for the post, Chris.
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterE
Just. Beautiful. Thank you for the post, Chris.
June 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterE
Thank you for this. It has been almost 2-1/2 yrs since the death of our son, Griffin. I have visited this parallel universe often, especially at playgrounds when I see baby boys who would be my son's age. These thoughts were sidelined with the successful subsequent birth of my daughter in December but I see them creeping back in. On Mother's Day my 4 month old and 5 year old daughters were cuddled together and for the first time I looked at them together and felt this sharp pain that someone was missing. He should be there snuggled with them and I could almost see him there. New life has brought joy that I feared was lost forever but I too still grieve. I find myself in a state of confusion as if I still can't comprehend what has happened. He was here and then he wasn't and now he lives only in my imagination and my dreams.
June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristie
I just wrote a post about this exact subject on my own blog. My parallel universe is where I hide my soul these days when the anger and sadness threatens to swallow me whole. I escape in my dreams, cross over to this parallel plane, and see my belly burgeoning with life. I am 29 weeks pregnant there, with our longed-for third child. Our first baby girl, a little sister to Henry and Ezra.

I just want to be there.
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTricia
I just wrote a post about this exact subject on my own blog. My parallel universe is where I hide my soul these days when the anger and sadness threatens to swallow me whole. I escape in my dreams, cross over to this parallel plane, and see my belly burgeoning with life. I am 29 weeks pregnant there, with our longed-for third child. Our first baby girl, a little sister to Henry and Ezra.

I just want to be there.
June 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

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