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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
Mar062009

Guilt

Grief is a tidy little word on the face of it -- it seems to suggest that we're just humming along, mourning our lost children.

Easy peasy.

But we all know too well that grief is a non-native, invasive species, wrapping itself around other parts of our life and suffocating them. It's a balloon that inflates, until it encompasses so much more than death itself. I often feel like I grieve multiple things: my old body, my old self, optimism, little-f faith, confidence in medical testing, unbridled joy, the unpleasant pruning of family and friends in this debacle, the family of four I envisioned. Oh, and my daughter. What I really want, I suppose, is the freedom to just miss my daughter.

Then there's the extraneous stuff that complicates grief. Multiplies and magnifies it. Doubt. Confusion. Uncertainty. Could be religion or parenting, could be infertility or relationships.

Could be guilt.

The first thing -- the absolute first thing -- I said to my husband after The Conversation with The Specialists where they told us Maddy was dying, and how did we want this to happen, and left the room so we could have a moment together was:  I'm Sorry.  

I'm not exactly sure what I was apologizing for -- marrying me? meeting me? falling in love with me? -- because when you get down to it, I had nothing to do with Maddy's death. Regardless of who's right in this mess and whether Maddy died of some never-before-seen genetic disorder or an infection circa 25w gone madly awry and then correcting itself, I float above rather free of blame. I had an extremely monitored pregnancy, and the umpteen ultrasounds through 32 weeks which never detected a problem. I never had a worrisome symptom. I never had contractions or leaking that needed medical attention. I had amnio because I was maternally geriatric and it was normal. I didn't miss signs, I didn't skimp on care. There was no date where I could have stepped in and said, "Something is wrong," and something could be done where everything would've turned out alright.

There is only the beginning. For me, what residual guilt I have over Maddy -- her awful little life and her death -- lies at the very onset of her conception when I said, "Let's try for a second." That's the only point I could've stopped the train from going off the rails, by not letting the train leave the station at all. But like someone who was broadsided by a car that missed a stop-sign, that's rather like saying, "I'm sorry I went to buy groceries." "I'm sorry I decided to go to work today like I always do." "I'm sorry I went to pick up our kid at school."

And so for the most part, I've let it go, and I swim this complicated sea of grief rather guilt free. I realize in that respect I'm sort of an anomaly in these parts, and that many of you feel guilt surrounding your baby's (babies') death(s) like a shoe on your throat. Missed signs. Care that at the time seemed plenty attentive but in hindsight seems sketchy. That 20-20 vision where you now know exactly when things started going poorly, and maybe if you had known, and could've gone somewhere, and convinced someone, and done something . . . .The feeling that if, if only, what if.

And I often read these posts and want desperately to step in and turn guilt off like a faucet.  It's moot! I scream at my screen. It's happened. And it's only complicating things. Let it go. It's not your fault.

But there's nothing I can say, because I know it's not for me to say it. It's for you to unravel and marvel and wonder as you stare at the pieces in your hands, wondering how you could've missed how they all fit together. It's for me to abide with you, and listen, and comfort, and take pain in your constant turning back of the clock. If there's anything I could do for a fellow parent grieving, it would be first and foremost, to erase the guilt. To separate it from your problems, set it on fire, and watch the smoke drift away. To eliminate that one feeling that makes grieving so, so much worse.

Do you feel guilt regarding your baby(-ies) death(s)? How do you deal with it? What if anything makes you feel better about it, and can you envision a time in your future where you let it go?

Tuesday
Mar032009

Life's Leverage

It's a banner day at the new contributors page for Glow, and one that's been a very long time coming. It now features our first regular contributor who is a father -- please welcome Chris of Elm City Dad.

Chris, daddy to Silas Orion and husband to Lani, has a way of stating simply and beautifully how the world looks after babyloss. In doing so, he makes us all exhale a little and say Yes, yes. That's just how it is. And when we do that, we all feel a little more sane, a little more on-the-right-path. Which is exactly why we're all here. Please welcome Glow's first dad -- Chris, we're so honoured to have you here.

 

These days are brutal. They are less vividly awful than the first days and weeks and months after Silas Orion was born, but these days have a subtle ache and desperation that is deeper and more pervasive than the raw shock of his death. That experience was nearly impossible to comprehend and now, day by day, the specific truths of his absence are revealed in life-sized cascades of loss.

I don't just wake up anymore. I have to pry myself out of bed. I have to slit my eyes open with razors of truth and face the empty day as the pain bleeds away into the active motions of living. I manage to forget that I am wounded to my core sometimes. Sometimes I even have fun. Sometimes I just fake it real good.

Because that's what we do, right? We of this Terrible Tribe. We know things about the World that no one else understands. The depth of our pain is beyond fathoms or miles. Beyond lightyears. Our ache resonates in a space that is the size of an entire Universe.

It is the Universe that would have lived in each of our children's minds if they were here and we could hold them in our arms. If we could watch them grow and teach them about the beauty of the World, they, in turn, would show us everything we had forgotten about this amazing place.

There is a big difference between forgetting and learning, though. How do we hold on to the good that remains all around us while our guts trail behind us like a nauseous shadow? How did we come to this? This limbo? This World where everything is dangerous and uncertain and somehow still stunning? And how, while in this World, do we get up every fucking day and just go do shit that needs to get done?

I guess it's just more interesting to try to be strong and powerful than to just give in. At least it is for us, for now. We freak out and get pissed and cry and rage and then sometimes we laugh our asses off. An example would be sledding down the icy hill in New Hampshire this weekend where we zoomed into laughter and then nearly into the trees. Danger loomed, I felt it. At least we ran towards it knowing.

I see people all the time who don't believe that life can be terrible and I just want to shake them until they see. But that doesn't help anything. The only way to know this is to go through it, and it is nothing I would ever wish on anyone.

My wishes don't matter, though, that's obvious. Everyone will experience loss and pain and tragedy in their lives. We just happened to get shafted early and good. That is why it is so important to celebrate every joy and happiness and beauty that we can find in our daily lives and in our dreams.

Resentment and jealousy leave a stench on my soul that I loathe. I try to push those feelings into calm acceptance. This is the only life I get to lead, and I must do better now for Silas, too. I hold him in my heart every moment of the day, and when I see his stars above at night, I feel their distant heat on my cool winter skin.

I hold Lu's hand and we walk. We push nothing but we pull each other along and somehow have some fun on another brutal night. Today it was Guinness and a snowstorm. Tomorrow, who knows.

What do you do to get by? How do you live in this limbo of pain and hope and healing and rage?  What pries you out of bed?

Monday
Mar022009

glow in the woods awards: winter 2008-09

In her post Auld acquaintance, Erica of I Lost a World explores the babylost parent's re-entry into ordinary life. How do we accept the trudging-along of the everyday, unable to stop any clock, while honouring our missing child(ren)?

She writes: I used to worry that I might forget Teddy, that his memory might flee from me as I walk in the snow, as I decorate the Christmas tree, as I watch the birds at the bird feeder, as I go about the mundane comings and goings of my life, and this terrified me...

The sheer volume of nominations this season made it tough to recognize one -- especially with so many resonant posts. But Erica's lovely reflection stayed with us because of a certain permission she gave herself, all vividly sparked by the lyrics of a song we all know.

+ + +

The Glow in the Woods Awards are back after a reorganization and somewhat of a winter hiatus, and we're thrilled to have a wonderful array of reflections, rants and smiles for you. Now being awarded seasonally, the following nominations for Winter 2008-09 encompass posts from December, January and February -- and the Spring 2009 award (we'll remind you) will recognize the writing of March, April and May. To review all the winners so far, go here.

Nominate any time -- whenever you find a post that moves you, send it us. Thanks for continuing to share your memories as well as your steps forward.

Our glowing nominees for December, January and February, in random order:

B of Shifty Shadow for Bundle of absence

Kirstin of Two Little Birds, Two Little Beasts for Ellery and Olivia

Sally of Tuesday’s Hope for Why Tuesday’s Hope

Erica of I Lost a World for Grief kit

J of Tea & Sympathy for A good day

CLC of Please Give Me Back My Heart for Raising stillbirth awareness

Forever Loves for Samples

Alexa of Flotsam for Scattered

After Iris for Damned lies

Monique of Samuel Marc for Philadelphia bound

Barbara of Burble for Haunted

Sarah of Ezra's Space for Magical walk, Dreaming of babies and Ezra’s great uncle

Elm City Dad for Universal ache

Gal of Growing Inside for Releasing attachment and Just like that

Living a Charmed Life for What shock looks like

Tuesday
Feb242009

that which remains

There are changes afoot in the lineup at Glow, and it's a right and wonderful thing. The contributors page now features a new category called 'glow emeritus' for founding writers whose lives and hearts have gathered enough momentum to bring them to new places from which to reflect.

Two new voices are joining our conversation here and we're thrilled. Today we bring you the first -- the wonderful Gal of Growing Inside. Gal, mother to princess Dahlia and angelbaby Tikva, gives us words that twist the kaleidoscope of this new view, inspiring us to see new colour in this unbidden and often bewildering spiritbaby parenthood. Let's make space by the fire and give her a hearty welcome, for we're deeply grateful to have her -- and you -- here with us.

 

Gray hair has settled in at my temples, clearly here to stay. Lots of it and more every day.

When I wear my hair down, the grays don’t show. But that means I can’t wear my hair back, and I like wearing my hair back. Especially when my hair is long, and right now I want to grow my hair long again. It’s been almost two years since it’s been long and right now I’m feeling the need for that again. Probably because I look younger, softer with my hair long, and right now I could use some of the lightness that comes with youth.

I don’t feel young anymore, not after the past year.

 

When I look in the mirror, I am struck by what I see in the woman looking back at me. She looks familiar, I recognize her but she is also new to me. She looks and feels older. Her eyes carry more sadness. She feels more grounded. Her gaze is more serious, her soul more honest. Along with the grays in her hair, her skin carries more fine lines, her forehead wears those not-so-subtle-anymore wrinkles that aren’t just there for a moment following an expression.

When I do yoga, the skin of my belly after carrying two babies hangs more limply from my core. My small breasts hang a little lower from nursing Dahlia and pumping for Tikva. My thighs… well, they’re just my thighs, jiggly and stretchmarked and still not my favorite feature, but the only thighs I get, so I continue to direct love their way in spite of it all. My skin is the skin of a 37 year old woman who has gained and lost weight rapidly (stretch marks), has had psoriasis most of her life (crusty itchy flaky scalp), had acne in college and still gets a zit or two at least weekly (blemishes and bumps), had shingles (discolored scars where the skin is numb from nerve damage). I still keep my nails short, 33 years after I started biting them, and I chew on the inside of my lips when I’m nervous, bored or focused.

I am full of imperfections, and in that, I am perfectly human. Alive, fragile, nervous at times, relaxed at others. I’m not five years old like my Dahlia, robust, skin smooth as milk, unblemished except for the daily preschool owie, radiantly healthy, at the very beginning of it all. She’s not brand new, and in losing her sister, she has been through more life experience already than most children three times her age. But still, everything is so new. And when I look at her I glow, and I also envy her, just a little, because everything is ahead. She can choose any fork in the road. She has nothing yet that she wishes she could undo.

There is something else I see when I look in the mirror, or when I close my eyes and feel what’s inside me. Like the hairs at my temples, I see the gray in my soul. It’s by no means my entire spirit that is gray, but there are wisps of gray there. Like the gray hairs, I don’t think they will go away, and they certainly can’t be covered up with color from a box. I imagine that I was born with a soul filled with color, and along the way of my life, I added more shades of brightness to my palette, and also introduced white to soften the brightness and black to darken it. I’m not sure if every single one of our souls begins as a full palette of bright colors, but this is what I see when I think of myself at my beginning this time around.

The past year dumped a pretty hefty can of gray paint on my spirit, with some drops splattering to pepper my temples. The gray mixed with the colors that were there – deep red and purple and turquoise and bright orangey yellow. The colors are still there now, just more pale, more subdued. The red is now burnt orange and pink, the purple more lavender, the turquoise now the color of an almost-black sky, the yellow more of an almost-there gold, like that last ray of light just before the sun sets.

I’m more tired now, more weary, and unexpectedly more peaceful. More accepting of what is, less rebellious against what I can’t control. Older and wiser, maybe?

This is what remains now, after losing my daughter. This is what remains after my heart was cracked open from sorrow and also from love. After some of the luster of my existence seeped out of me into the soil between blades of grass at my feet, to mix once again into the core of the universe from whence I came.

With the blemishes on my body and spirit, I am still here. Still vital. Still very much alive. More deeply connected to others, certainly more deeply connected to my most essential self. I have for the most part, most of the time, sloughed off what I no longer need – anxious worry about things that don’t matter, energy extended toward people who make me feel bad and petty things that aren’t good for me, time wasted on anything that is not at its core about love, genuine connection and compassion.

What remains is rougher than before, and also more refined. It’s the core that has always been but which has lost its smooth protective casing and is now more visible, more bare, more vulnerable… but mostly, more pure.

I never expected I would be looking at this woman and she would be me. It’s taking me some time to get to know her, but I do like her. I wish she didn’t have to go through all she’s been through to get here, but I find her quite beautiful. Not in spite of it all, but because of it.

.::.

What remains for you – of you – after losing your baby? What do you see in the mirror? Are you different than before? How do you feel about you now? Do you like what you see?

Saturday
Feb212009

birthday blues

I’ve been struggling to the point of physical sickness this week, obsessing about what should have been. Imagining balloons and cake and hours of smiling video. Sadie would have been one yesterday. It was frankly one the hardest days I’ve had so far.

Everything that’s been mercifully floating around the periphery lately crashed in on me over the last few days. I was back at her bedside. Pacing the waiting room in the PICU. Saying goodbye.

.:.

I’ve been trying with great difficulty to find something hopeful to say here as I’m typically not one to be dark or melancholy. But it occurred to me that this is exactly the place where I will be understood if my armour does slip momentarily. Even the most resilient grow weary on occasion. And truth be told, I’m just really goddamn tired.

I’d like a free pass that says I can shut the world out for a time in order to selfishly tend to myself. Be it sleeping away a day or reading a book in one sitting or walking central London in silence, I earned it when I suffered this loss, didn’t I? My pass would read, ‘Get out of my face and just understand. I’ll be back when I’m ready. I promise.’

Of course it doesn’t work that way. God knows disappearing or shutting out the world completely would try the patience of even our most perservering family and friends. But to drop all pretense on my random dismal days, with friends and colleagues and strangers in the street bearing witness, doesn’t really jive either.

I feel the only thing to do is go back to polishing my metal. Ride out days like this causing as little collateral damage as possible. Look for the next bright one. Wonder if anyone realizes how I'm cursing pretty much everything in my path until it comes.

.::.

My deepest desire, aside from having her here with us, has been to be assured that she knew how deeply she was loved. That she changed my life distinctly and forever for the better. That my heart aches always in her absence. That she knows I would love nothing more than to pull her into my arms and sing, "Happy birthday, Baby," softly in her ear.

.::.

How do you deal with dark days? Are you better on your own, or does it help to be surrounded by people?