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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
Jan232009

What dreams may come

I don't tend to remember dreams. I used to say I don't dream, and then I learned that we all dream, but unless we wake up at the right time in the sleep cycle, we don't remember what it was we were dreaming about. So now I use scientifically correct terminology-- I don't tend to remember dreams.

The times I have dreamt of A? That I remember? I don't even need one hand to count. And never have I seen him as an infant, either the way he looked when he was born or as an alive one. Since I am by nature not an easily guilt-ridden parent, this does not usually cause me angst. I don't even know if I ever felt envious of the bloggers who have had these vivid live baby dreams-- the practical side of me kicks in right away with the "how hard it must be to wake up from a dream like that."

The times I have seen A in a dream? Well, a number of times before he was born. When I owned up last year to knowing he wouldn't be staying I left one thing out-- the dreams. I saw him in my dreams, a couple of times, while I was pregnant with him. Never as an infant. Always as a little boy, always in a distance, with a full head of curly hair, never looking at me, always running away. If this was a part of a storyline in a book or a movie, I would roll my eyes. Too much, too thick, too manipulative. But, as Mark Twain famously noted, fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth-- not so much.

A was born with curly hair. Tiny little waves of hair, perfect little squiggles, all wet from the birth, all over his perfect little head. And in one of the only dreams I remember from the weeks after, he was still running away, but this time he stopped and turned his head to look back.

 

My boys are different people, I am sure of it. Was sure of it the whole time, from before I was ever pregnant with the Cub. (Though who can really say how much of this surety is a pushback against the idea that a living baby fixes the grief and the griever-- one of my absolute favorites, that.) And even if I wasn't convinced of A being distinct from any future baby just on general principle, there would still be the part where he was running away from me in the dreams. That's not to say that I think that bereaved parents who believe that the souls of their children who are gone come back to them are wrong. I am, as with so many things in this grief world, agnostic on this. For other people. Not for myself. My boys are distinct.

And actually, since I was so sure that if we were to have a living baby it would have to be a girl, I considered the whole question, as it relates to me, purely theoretical. I think I was even a bit smug about that in the privacy of my own mind. Obviously that is not how it went. Though now that it went, now that I am getting to know the Cub, I am ready to attest with even more conviction-- they are different.

Except... Except that once in a while I think back to this other dream I remember from the early weeks. Well, "remember" is a bit strong there. The dream that was capital W Weird. Spontaneous human cloning-- oh yeah, baby! I dreamt, as far as I can remember, because it became hazy within minutes of waking up, that there were some cells left of A's placenta, and that at some point one of them went all pluripotent and created another, genetically identical pregnancy. This is both bizarre and absurd. So much so that I think I knew even in the dream that I was, in fact, dreaming. I certainly knew it the very moment I woke up (behold the power of years and years of my not entirely wasted edumucation). In the end, though, after I dismissed the literal scenario of the dream, in the end I had this unmistakable feeling that there was something tangible, something physical left. Even if I couldn't touch it.

Curiously, this dream happened only days before one of the handful of dead baby bloggers I was reading at the time posted about the research that showed that fetal cells can enter mother's bloodstream and remain there for at least 27 years. Physical indeed.

 

So what about you? Do you remember your dreams? How much attention do you pay to them? Do you dream about your dead baby? Do you want to?

Monday
Jan192009

Home

Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule.~Frederick W. Robertson

My husband and I recently agreed to stay in London for one more year. It will be our third. Taking into consideration how swiftly time seems to pass despite the pain or pleasures life hands us, I’ve been thinking about what this place means to me, and what it will mean to return to Canada.

In the weeks following Sadie’s death we flew back to hold her funeral and to spend time with our family. Angry and desperately sad, I vowed to return permanently as soon as possible. I listened and believed those around us who said it was time, all things considered, to be closer to our friends and loved ones. It was all well intentioned; something to offer when there was no other way to help: Come back, and while you don’t have her, at least you’ll have us. We are both so loved.

I was emotionally chaotic; I viewed our return as the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Yet after months passed and I did what was the right thing for me – getting a job – I started to doubt my hasty proclamation. Despite it being the polar opposite of what I wanted to be doing, I believed that distracting myself with work challenges and making new friends was the healthy, responsible way to channel my grief.

I began to experience this home from a different perspective. I was extraordinarily sad, and still am. But I was forging a path as a new person. Everything I looked at was at once starkly different, as though through the eyes of someone else. It has taken many months to understand how deeply losing Sadie has changed my very essence. And now, ten months later, I can see how London has been a integral part of this transformation.

I’ve always told my husband that I am an adaptable person by nature, and he knows all too well how much I enjoy change. In the years before we bought our Toronto home, I moved both on my own and with him no less than once a year over the span of six years. Needless to say, the idea of moving overseas and making a life for ourselves in a new country was particularly appealing.

I believe that being here throughout this time has taught me what I’m made of.

Now, faced with the reality of our time here coming to an end, the thought of leaving saddens me more than I ever expected it to. I know how quickly this year will fly by. This is the place where my husband and I chose to strike out independently of everything we knew and make a life distinctly our own. It’s where our daughter was conceived, and where we came to terms with what becoming parents meant to us. It is where we were fortunate enough to experience the barely describable love and joy that was being her mom and dad.

It is where we shared both the most glorious and the most heartbreaking moments of our lives.

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you - you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences - like rags and shreds of your very life. ~Katherine Mansfield

.::.

Do you associate a certain place with your lost child, be it a city, home, or otherwise? How has that relationship changed since your loss?

 

Tuesday
Jan132009

that which reshapes the shoreline

Today's post comes to us from Loribeth of The Road Less Travelled. After trying to conceive for more than two years, Loribeth and her husband rejoiced in pregnancy only to deliver their daughter Kathleen Maria (Katie) at 26 weeks gestation. Two more years of infertility testing & treatment followed Katie's stillbirth before the couple made the difficult decision to remain childless/free, and inspired by the pregnancy loss support group they discovered after their loss of Katie, Loribeth and her husband now volunteer with the group as facilitators.

"January 12 was my 48th birthday," Loribeth explains. "In 2008 I relived, in sometimes agonizing detail, the events of ten years earlier when Katie was born still. I'm a loyal Glow in the Woods reader, and it made sense to me this month -- just over a decade from the start of our journey -- to write about the passage of time and infant loss."

 photo by s~revenge

The popular misconception, of course, is that time heals all wounds -- and outwardly, at least, that would appear to be the case.

I get up and go to work every morning. I attend meetings, send e-mails, have lunch with friends, laugh at colleagues' stories about their kids, do the banking and run errands. I clean house and cook. I call my mother every Sunday night.

For the most part, I function normally in the world.

Anyone who sees me would never guess how very different things were ten years ago, or even seven years ago when we made the extremely difficult decision to abandon infertility treatment and continue our life without children.

With the passage of time, our friends, families and co-workers seem to have forgotten our daughter, or shoved the memory of what happened into the recesses of their minds. Most of the people we've met over the past decade -- with the exception of those we’ve met through our volunteer work as pregnancy loss support group facilitators -- have no idea that I was pregnant, that we had a child, that the tragedy of stillbirth and the pain of infertility has so profoundly touched our lives. It's like I have this secret identity, this other life that I only feel safe revealing when I'm at home with my husband, or online, or with other bereaved parents -- people who have been there, done that, and understand in a way that few others can.

So outwardly, life has gone on, much the same as before. Inwardly, of course, it's another story.

: : :

My favourite line from Elizabeth McCracken's fabulous stillbirth memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination is Closure is bullshit. For me, there has never been any 'closure' following my daughter's stillbirth.

It's not that I still feel that my grip on sanity is tenuous... most days. But I freely admit that, after more than 10 years, there is not a single day -- sometimes not an hour -- in which I don't find myself thinking about my pregnancy, my daughter, my infertility, my involuntary childlessness.

It is with me -- she is with me -- always. Sometimes it's just a fleeting thought, sometimes obsession. There are days when it nudges around the outer edges of my consciousness, and days when I sit in my cubicle with work piling up around me and all I can do is read stillbirth and infertility websites, articles and blogs. Even after ten years, I still crave the validation they provide -- the certain knowledge that somebody else out there has been through this too and understands exactly how I feel.

There are obvious triggers -- babies, pregnant women, the window displays at Baby Gap. Some moments take me by surprise like a sucker-punch in the gut. The thing is, I never know exactly how I'm going to react until I'm in the moment. There are days -- and certainly many, many more than there were 10 years ago -- when I can admire a colleague's baby and take genuine pleasure in holding her. And there are other days when I have to duck out the side door at the first faint wail drifting down the hallway toward my cubicle. I've sat at baby showers where I could barely stand to see the adorable little outfits emerge from their boxes and gift bags, and at others where, if not exactly enthralled by the proceedings, I've managed to chat with the other women around me and have a reasonably pleasant time.

Parents whose children have died often hear the cliche, time heals all wounds. I wouldn't say this is true. Yet I can't deny, as another stillbirth mother once said to me: Time doesn’t exactly heal... but it does help.

: : :

Yes, I still think of my daughter all the time. Yes, grief can still rise up and strike me, leaving me gasping and reeling. I sometimes think of grief as ebbing and flowing, like the tide -- with a big wave rolling in every now and then to shake things up and reshape the shoreline.

But most of the time, I'm okay. Anyone who sees me would never guess that I'm not. And most of the time, I really am. Despite the baby I will always miss and the things I will never get to experience with her, my life is still, on the whole, a pretty good one. With a wonderful husband, a comfortable home, a job that's never boring with colleagues I like, a loving extended family and good friends both online and in real life. And I have a daughter who is still very much an important part of that life, even though she never drew a breath on this earth.

I would have preferred a life that included actively parenting my daughter. Nothing will ever compensate for her absence but since I can’t change it, I can focus on the good things I have around me. One of my favourite quotes, from Joseph Campbell, is this:

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

: : :

Another bereaved mother and real-life friend recently asked me if I still think of Katie as a baby or as a 10-year-old and my reply was that it’s probably somewhere in between. I can picture the toddler or preschooler she would have been very clearly -- the 10-year-old, I'm having more trouble with, and don't even ask me about the teenager or the college graduate. My mother recently said to me I can't believe you're almost 50 -- neither can I, Mom! Like any mother, I think, I find it hard to believe my daughter would be as old as she would be, were she here -- that she'd be growing up and getting older as I get older too.

No matter how old both my mother and I get, I will always be her little girl.

And Katie will forever be mine.

Saturday
Jan102009

a voyager landed

photo by camera shy momma

Nothing discernable to the eye of the spirit is more brilliant or obscure than man; nothing is more formidible, complex, mysterious, and infinite. There is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul.

Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885), Les Miserables

Yet more cause for joy -- sweet Janis has safely given birth to her daughter this morning. There's no announcement post up yet but go here for more news and to pass on best wishes. At the very least, read her last post prior to labour -- the words of a babylost mother surrendering to the infinite mystery of a purposeful soul.

Thursday
Jan082009

a fruitful harvest

photo by mainemomma

For believe me: the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and greatest enjoyment is -- to live dangerously.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

Our very own Niobe has welcomed her son today. Join us as we cheer.