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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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Friday
Mar052010

Dates and time

I've been thinking about dates lately. And time.

This past weekend it occurred to me that, give or take a few days, the Cub is now as old as how much time had passed between A’s birth and his. That length of time, which while lived through seemed torturously, treacherously long, personified. In such a small person.

Looking at him, I know it wasn’t that much time. Eighteen and a half months, that’s all. The Cub’s needs are no longer entirely physical, and no longer dependent on me almost exclusively to satisfy, but they are still a hell of a lot physical, and still a hell of a lot dependent on me. Which is to say, since this weekend, I have been thinking on and off about the time in between, about my grief in that in between time.

I’d had a baby, but I no longer had A, that baby, with me. I’d had a baby, but I didn’t have him. But I think looking back, that the grief then was surprisingly a lot like having a baby (only with booze allowed). All consuming, physical, exhausting at first. Ever so slightly less demanding as time went on. But oh boy, it could demand attention at oddest of moments with the best of them. In my imperfect analogy, a cold perhaps, a stomach bug, teething.

And then, separately, there was the terror of the new pregnancy, the complications, the bed rest, monitoring, pre-term labor. Through all that I didn’t physically have a baby, a toddler to take care of. But, looking at how small the Cub is now, damn it, grief that young still needed, and deserved a whole lot of attention.

When A first died, six months out seemed like a lot of time, time enough that I’d expected myself to at least reach some sort of a plateau by then, to have my shit together. When six months actually came, it whacked me good and strong. In a comment on my blog someone told me that my grief was still so very fresh—a revelation and a relief. By the time a year rolled around, I got enough of a clue to have realized myself that it wasn’t so much time either. And now, looking at eighteen and a half months in the flesh, I am relearning that lesson.

Holy shit. I’d had two babies in eighteen and a half months. Looking back, a feat not made significantly easier by the fact that the older of them wasn’t around to demand a diaper change. And wow—A has now been gone for two of the Cub’s lifetimes. Only two now.

My brain does that—sees numbers and patterns, and patterns in the numbers. And it makes it not so very easy to forget a date, to miss one. Monday is Monkey’s birthday. Coincidentally also her former due date. Tuesday is A’s due date. Because Monkey was born on hers, it’s been tough for me to relieve the date of its import in my head. This will be the fourth time it has rolled around since he died. The first three were tough, each in a slightly different way. I wonder how this one will play. I wonder who else will remember.

 

How have you percieved time since your baby's death? Have there been periods when it felt different than most? What are your significant dates? Have they changed over time? Do you think they might?

 

Friday
Feb262010

new at glow: a designated discussion board for TTC, pregnancy and birth after loss

There was a time when I couldn't fathom pregnant women. Couldn't stand to hear about them, hear from them, see them, consider them. They represented hope I couldn't feel, trust I couldn't muster, assumptions I thought blithely naive. And I thought in the months following Maddy's death, with a probable cause of a genetic autosomal recessive disorder on top of infertility, that I'd never be pregnant again. Pregnancy was something to be mourned, something I'd likely never experience again in my lifetime.

There were days when I hopped online to find commiseration and community and found . . . . pregnancy announcements. People yammering about hope and faith and fear and months in the future I couldn't fathom and I felt lonely, left out, left behind. I often felt I'd never fit in, never get this community because I didn't or couldn't possibly want another child. There were blogs I had to read through my fingers, and comments left with pursed lips.

It hurt.

Having said that: I understood, even then, that wanting a subsequent child after loss is both natural and profound, and rife with both hope and fear (or in my case, plain vanilla denial). And that parents riding this wave on top of their grief need an outlet and a place to explore this great contradiction going on in their lives. It was their right to write, despite my feelings of ambiguity and sadness.

(As an aside, it took a few years -- years! -- for me to overcome this, and truly be able to stand behind my fellow bloggers with unabashed support and yes, even happiness for them.  As for pregnancy, it took almost three years of grieving, medical research, and diagrams to decide to try and have another baby of my own, a subject which I discussed on Glow, here.)

We've created a separate discussion board for conversations pertaining to conception, pregnancy, and (gulp) birth after loss. This is a good and gentle thing that benefits all of us in every stage of grief, growth, and healing.

Although I think most in this community are painfully careful to discuss these things gently knowing the hurt that exists out there, there are some who really can't bear to even read the title of the discussion that ensues. And all of this is all within your rights: to have a safe space where you can share your feelings, but don't need to face something you're not ready for, yet.

Due to the wonderful wealth of content on the main board, it's not possible for us to migrate existing mentions of TTC, pregnancy, or birth to the new board. But from now on, please abide by this distinction when adding threads or posts.

We should say at one point we tried to peel apart the forum into themes, and it just didn't work -- it's much easier for most of us to read through the topics in a single list to scan for what feels most relevant. So we're splitting the boards in two with some trepidation -- and we don't want the discussion here to become unwieldy and segmented into multiple sub-groups. But this feels right to us, keeping mentions of pregnancy separate. Then it's up to you to click into the place where you feel the most comfortable, with no judgment.

It took me almost three years to decide to risk getting pregnant again, and even now I'm still a bit nervous reading other people's rationales and experiences because mine seem so different. For some though, there will never be enough time -- there will never be a time when they will read such posts without a gnawing discomfort and an additional sense of grief. For all of you in this community, I'm hoping this is a mindful decision.

Thanks so much to all of you for all the heartfelt advice, support, and communion you give and receive on our discussion boards. It makes this safe space belong to all of us.

ttc | pregnancy | birth after loss

Wednesday
Feb242010

the meme formerly known as 7x7: on community, blogging, and public grief

It sure isn't seven questions. And we haven't been seven for a while now, the writers here departing and arriving, veterans 'graduating' and raw voices taking their place. That's how we always knew it would be here at Glow. Eventually we get an email that says, simply, My time comes to post and I draw a blank. I feel peaceful / busy / elsewhere and just kinda tapped. I'm ready to go somewhere new. Is that okay?

It's always okay. It makes me smile. We may still be haunted by that resident boomerang of shock, but there does come a point where you realize, profoundly, that you're not drowning anymore. And so this space (and your space, and the spaces you visit) changes. What it stands for, what it gives you.

This time around, we're exploring the practice of public grief. Share with us what honesty, anonymity, community, and moving on look like for you. Our answers are here, at Glow's newly renamed kitchen table. Pull up a chair. If you have a blog, copy and paste the following questions into your own post, link to us, and share the link to your answers in the comments here. If you don't have a blog, please answer directly in the comments.

+++

1 |  How would you describe your presence on the internet?  Does your online voice differ from your real life voice? If so, how? And why?

2 |  Why did you begin blogging, or reading blogs? Was this before or after your experience of babyloss?

3 |  Do you write anonymously? Does anonymity - or would anonymity - change your expression of grief?

4 |  Do you have a responsibility in how you express yourself on the internet? To whom, and why?

5 |  Do authenticity and honesty matter to you, both as a reader and a writer? Or does unconditional support matter more? How do you think readers perceive your truth?

6 |  Have you ever been in the crosshairs of a troll? How did you deal with it, and what did you learn from it?

7 |  How do you feel before going online - either to write on your own blog, or to absorb the writing of others? How do you feel when you shut down the computer and walk away?

8 |  Do family/friends know you write/commune online? If so, have they told you how they feel about it? How do you respond to their opinions?

9 |  Have you ever met any other loss bloggers in real-life? How did it feel to share food and air and space, and how did it make you feel about your own storytelling and healing? If you haven't experienced this, would you want to, or not? Why?

10 |  How did you/will you know it's time to read fewer grief blogs, and write less of grief? How did you/will you redirect your energy, creativity, and persona online -- did you/will you go offline? Disappear and start again? Or transition in your current space, hoping to find a new voice? If you've done this, how did it feel?

(to comment and partipate, please leave your answers and/or link on this topic's kitchen table page)


Monday
Feb222010

notes from a veteran

Red Pen Mama's baby boy was stillborn more than six years ago. When she started blogging three years ago, her instinct was to follow the 'mommyblogging' path. "I wanted to talk about my kids," she says. "I wanted to be funny. I think sometimes I am (my kids give me great stories), but I was searching for my own voice."

In 2007, she discovered the online world of babylost parents for the first time. "I realized that I could talk about it—talk about him, my baby boy. That along with talking about my living daughters, my anxiety, my struggles, music and books, my thoughts on faith, and my city. But to see that I could share my thoughts and my feelings about Gabriel, and tell his story, and not have people turn away—that was literally breathtaking. I would have people who understood."

Even in the first, fresh few days, I knew that I would feel better some day.

But I didn't want to feel better some day.

The first time I didn't feel absolutely beaten down by the fact of my baby's death, I felt terrible. I was the mother of a dead child, and that was wholly my identity in those first days and months. I wasn't a daughter or sister or a writer. I was a wife—wife to the father of a dead baby.

That dead baby, my son Gabriel, was my whole world. I couldn't believe it. I could not wrap my head around it. I thought it was a dream. I would wake up at night with aching breasts, expecting to hear him cry. I simply could not fathom how this was my life.

I did not want to feel better. But eventually, I did.

photo by niko_si

I can't tell you if it was six weeks or six months later, but I started freelancing again; I went to a concert or two (which was extremely disorienting); I made love to my husband; we traveled to San Francisco with his family, including my pregnant sister-in-law.

I was still the mother of a dead baby. How could I be more than that? Despite my best efforts to not move forward, I was. It was not easy—it was terrifying. But it was forward.

+++

The kindest thing someone said to me in the days after Gabriel's loss came from my uncle, my father's brother, who had lost his 22-year-old son in a car accident years and years ago. You will never get over this. It was such a balm. I didn't have to try to get over my loss, put it behind me, pretend to "be okay". It was never going to be okay.

You will never feel as good as you did before you became the parent of a dead child. That woman, that man, is lost to innocence, lost to the pure joy and miracle that is making babies. Even sex will be fraught for some time. I suggest wine. Not too much.

Every pregnancy you hear about—even (I hope) your own—will be shadowed, sometimes so darkly you will wonder what you are doing in a world where people want to have babies. It's madness. Madness you may recognize someday as your own.

Though you may need help to heal from such devastation—therapy, medication, a vacation someplace far from everyone you know—you will never get over it.

But you will feel better.

~ Red Pen Mama

+++

Do you remember one of the first moments that it occurred to you that you might be feeling better? Where were you, and what were you doing? How did your heart react, and how are you now?

Monday
Feb082010

on breaking habits and freeing arms

Mrs. Spit was amazed to find herself pregnant in June of 2007, and heartbroken in December, when her son Gabriel died. Thrust into a world she didn’t understand, she’s works on finding peace there, trying to understand how to move forward.  She blogs daily at Mrs. Spit . . . Still Spouting Off, writing about her life as a wife, a friend, a knitting-gardener, and occasionally, as the mother to a dead child.

Choosing to move a step forward in your grief is such a personal, such an individual thing. It comes on its own time line, with its own rules. When you chose to get out of the habit about blogging about, about talking of your grief, your dead child, its a hard thing to understand.

The story starts with a story teller - Stuart Mclean, host of CBC's Vinyl Cafe. I wrote to Stuart this past December, telling him that we would be at his Christmas Concert, and we weren't there two years ago because I was delivering a child that died. I didn't have any particular reason to write, I wasn't really writing to tell him I enjoyed his radio show, I wasn't really writing for anything, and yet, I still wrote.

He wrote me back the loveliest of emails. He talked a bit about perinatal death, but he talked more about the process of finding your spot in life again. He used a metaphor of a wood pile, they put wood in front of you, and eventually you get back to chopping and stacking wood.

For a long time, a terribly long time, I needed Gabe to stay with me. As I lost pregnancy after pregnancy, bleeding and bleeding, I needed Gabe. And if I did not have the warm living body of my son, I had his memory. As I sorted my way through the grief of his death, and then 4 more miscarriages, I needed to hold him close, for comfort, for peace and for hope.

I started a new job about the time I went to the Christmas Concert, and it was time to change my focus. To talk less about Gabe, to carry him in my heart, but give my arms a break. Some of this has been quite conscious - I pass up opportunities to talk about pregnancy, about childbirth, about perinatal loss. When people ask if I have kids, I answer quickly - "No". I am breaking habits. I blog less about Gabe as well, if only because I blog more about everything else. The now.

When I was in high school we turned a wooded area into a soccer field. We took the trees down the old fashioned way - with axes and buck saws. We chopped them down, and then we sawed them up. It took all of my junior year to chop those trees down, and all of my senior year to clear the brush.

photo by zach bonnell

Perinatal death is a forest, laid upon the ground. Trees that are no longer trees, but not yet useful wood. Ratty old lodge-pole pine, a bit of poplar, sticky spring sap still coming off. Torn up ground. Rents, when whole trees have been dragged away to chop. Underbrush and mud, with leaves ground in. Alberta wild roses, full of prickly thorns, winter-berry. The smell of decomposing green matter, cold fall days, freezing winter. Cold, bleeding hands, bruised shoulders, broken toes. Perinatal death and half chopped up forests are not places to linger. They are places of purpose, back-breaking, soul-wearing work.

Like everything, work ends. Four years after we started, grass in, the field level, bleachers and junior girls playing soccer, I stood on the sidelines. But for memory, I would not know field was forest. But for this story, you would not know.

Stuart wrote about the process of living, grieving, wanting, wishing. He made a point: there's wood in front of you. You give yourself over to it, testing the sore parts, not sure if you can trust your knees to carry. You start a bit slowly, then you are more able to carry on with the sore bits, and the truth is, it hurts less. One day, the work is done. Then, you find others, in their torn-down forests, and you tell them the dimensions of a cord of wood."Start there", you say. "That one is small. You can manage that."

Do not misunderstand, my classmates, we talk about that forest-field. Once in a while we get together and we reminisce. We share a secret, we know what you see in front of you was not always there. We know that memories fade. Oh, not the fact: the how, all those awful days or work. All that remains is field from forest and  that transformation is good and right to talk about. But only sometimes.

You understand the description I have given you, even if you have never, by the strength of your back, wrought field from forest. You who understand transformation, raw power, hefting, struggling and bleeding - you understand those dimensions that I gave you, you understand 50 cords of wood from forest.

I can talk about what was, what could have been -  but most people see what is. My stories of Gabriel here and gone make no sense, people who have not built field from forest cannot reconcile heartbreak to the composed woman in front of them. Of the power of transformation, they know not.

Most of the time people, they say "Oh, look a soccer field."

Perhaps one day they will realize that soccer fields don't make themselves, perhaps one day you will need to come along and show them how to make one. Or not. Most people live in the ever present now. And truly, now is not such a terrible place to be. Sometimes you wish your now was different, always you wish it included just one more person. Somedays, when you are tired, when you particularly remember, you remember neither the wood or the soccer field, but that horrible place in between.

Most days, you just nod. "Yep", you say, "that's a soccer field".

~ Mrs. Spit