welcome

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.

subscribe
categories
search
Powered by Squarespace
Monday
Apr062009

7 by 7: the body shop

If there's any time of the year to take an inventory of physical healing, spring is it.

April is Body Shop month at Glow in the Woods -- in our posts, we'll be exploring what we've done and not done in an effort to occupy these bodies with grace after babyloss. To kick things off, it's a new 7 by 7 -- join in, won't you?

Our answers are here -- if you have a blog, copy and paste these 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 | Give us a few words you would have used to describe your body, your health or your sense of physical vitality before the experience of babyloss—and a few that you’d use to describe it now.

2 | What do you do to take care of yourself? Has this changed?

3 | Give us one or two words to describe sex or physical intimacy before, and then after the loss of your baby.

4 | Has loss and/or grief left a physical mark on you (a scar, a chronic condition, insomnia, a tattoo)?

5 | Do you medicate or control your emotions with food, wine, altered states, prescriptions? Without judgement, what have you gravitated towards in an effort to heal, and how do you feel about it?

6 | Was physical healing important for you in the first year after your loss? What did/does physical healing entail and how did/do you work towards it? If physicality hasn't been a priority for you, what do you do that makes you feel stronger or more able to cope?

7 | If you could change anything about your body and/or health, what would it be? What would it feel like to be either at peace with your body, or at peace with this babylost state?

 

(to comment and partipate, please leave your answers and/or link on this month's 7 by 7 page)

Thursday
Apr022009

coming soon: the GITW body shop

Oh, all the words I should not know those doctors wrote on me
Swell up and from their syllable won't let me get to sleep.
The sun will start later, clock out early
And I'll drive around and wait for it.
Follow familiar roads emptied of every memory
Under a sheet of silence and unmarked snow.

 

'Hymn of the Medical Oddity', The Weakerthans

It's not just a vessel of children, of seed-sowing. It's a vessel of you.

How has your relationship to your physical self changed since birth and loss? Perhaps it's been a conscious effort to accept your scars. Or perhaps you conjured others with ink on skin. You may or may not sleep well. You may rely on down-dogs or uppers or pounds or vitality. Or perhaps all that's changed is invisible to the untrained eye.

For the next round of posting, we're all going to share aspects of our physical healing -- and we hope you do, too. Reflect with us as we think way beyond calories to sex, yoga, wine. But not all at once. Or maybe so. You tell us.

Early next week, we'll kick off this theme month with a new Body Shop 7 by 7 feature to get everyone warmed up -- expect to see our answers and the meme posted early next week, and join in.

Until then, think on this, mothers and fathers alike:

You walked out through hospital doors, blinking in strange air and light, a babylost parent. Your heart and guts had been thrown up into the air like shrapnel, then settled back down again all askew. What now? How do you take care of this body, honour it, forgive it? Or do you?

 

Tuesday
Mar242009

thinking back, looking forward

It was a year ago this week that we began what would end up being a weeklong stay on the cardiac and then ICU wards at the children's hospital. In my mind's eye the memory is seen from a point of view over my shoulder, blurry as though through a filtered lens, all mottled edges and underwater sounds.

The brunette receptionist.

Being buzzed in.

The nurse I ignored as she greeted me, thinking she couldn't be old enough to know a thing.

Me holding tight, one hand held protectively against the back of Sadie's head, the other under her tiny padded bum.

My utter disbelief that we were there to begin with.

Why did they know who we were? Why were they expecting us?

Of course, the emergency room doctor at our local hospital had called ahead. She had already sent me home to pack a bag and call my husband before arranging for an ambulance to bring us across the city. She understood long before we left that the size of her heart made Sadie a very sick little girl.

There was a bed waiting for us. I distinctly remember feeling panic rise in my chest over not understanding what anyone was saying. I didn't want to take her out of her sling to hand her over to anyone. The strongest bond she and I formed over her six short weeks on earth was when I held her, cheek nuzzled to my neck. She was soothed instantly by it. It made me understand what it meant to be willing to give your life for another’s. I don’t have to explain to any of you the depth of devotion one feels toward their child. The strongest love that exists, full stop.

The walls were painted a vivid yellow; the enormous privacy curtains around each bed pumpkin orange. They were such happy colours to use as the backdrop to a thousand layers and personal brands of fear, doubt, and confusion. By mid afternoon they cast a warm glow on one’s skin when the sun shone through the wall of windows at the end of the ward. As though the fiery determination of all of those terrified parents was burning from their insides out as they learned to administer meds and monitor heart rates.

Shortly after arriving we met the specialists who would diagnose her Cardiomyopathy and tell us how rare and difficult it typically proved for infants. I was knocked out of my daze into the present, struggling to comprehend his intricate explanation of how a healthy heart works versus how our daughter’s did. I slowly understood that I needed to think of her as a ‘Heart Baby’ and what that meant to our future. I began to write stories in my head to her. All of which included how to explain her special circumstances, in which her special heart needed extra special care, because she was different from other people in a very special way.

One morning, for the first time, she looked right at me as I leaned over her hospital bed and smiled the most beautiful smile in history. Machines beeped and children cried and she sealed her spot as the love of my life.

A week later we would watch a team of intensive care doctors try in vain to save her life.

Neither of us has been the same since, in too many ways to mention. But together we're so much stronger than apart.

.::.

I told my husband months ago that I wanted very much to escape from our lives on March 31st. I didn’t want to have to face anyone else but the one who understands what is happening in my heart. He understands that if anything, a year is but a minute when it comes to grief.

The difference between today and a year ago is not that the pain of our lost girl has diminished. It has only changed. Morphing from a life size mask to become an inky black fragment of my shadow. Always there and forever a part of me, but not the first thing you’ll see when you meet me. Sadie would have wanted me to take the mask off. I am still her mother. I am still me.

Next Tuesday, on the morning that will mark a year since we lost her, I will wake up early beside the man I love and watch the sunrise. We’ll have breakfast on the roof of our riad in the heart of Marrakech. Then we will travel to the Atlas Mountains with the solitary goal of drinking in the natural beauty of the exotic Moroccan landscape. I want to spend our time walking by his side, exploring the medina together. Breathing in the scents of spice and soaking up the turquoise sky. Losing ourselves in the city described as one that time has forgotten. All that matters is that I will be far away with him, remembering her.

.:.

How did you spend the first anniversary of your child's death, or how do you intend to?

Thursday
Mar192009

anything is possible

This afternoon I spontaneously took Dahlia to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. They’re having a weeklong exhibit called Bouquets to Art, and boy was it gorgeous. As if the museum wasn’t beautiful enough, this week it is adorned with flower arrangements created to depict or appreciate different works of art throughout the place. And… I’d forgotten the two traveling exhibits that are currently there: Andy Warhol and Yves St. Laurent. Talk about eye candy… and color!

Someone recommended to me a few months ago, “Go look at art. Walk in a park surrounded by flowers. Go see something beautiful.” They were right…

Today I fed my soul.

Today I refilled my leaky well.

Today I stroked my tired heart with softness and vibrancy and beauty.

Today I sat on a cushioned couch under a disco ball, watching Dahlia skip and dance and hop among the moving lights and shapes that circled the floor. As if she were a work of art herself, an ever-changing statue in motion. A dancer. A happy child simply playing. Making others around her smile. Filling me up.

We flitted about, surrounded by mannequins dressed in Yves St. Laurent gowns, and Dahlia pointed at each one and said, “Mommy, this one’s me and this one’s you. This one’s you and this one’s me. Look, Mommy… Wow! This one’s my favorite…” Delicious. The bright colors, the sparkles, the eccentricity of exaggeration, just for the sheer beauty of it.

Today I loved my daughters, the vibrant living one dancing before me, and the spirit one whom Dahlia said she saw in the mist that was watering the grass outside. “There’s Tikva!” I loved them both from a bright and full place within me.

And I thought about possibility – the word I have been swishing around in my mouth for a while. Surrounded by all that color, all that imagination, all that life – however fleeting… there’s a reason the flower exhibit only lasts a week – I was able to feel the possibility of what is ahead with greater depth than before.

Because if a person can make art so bright, so gorgeous, isn’t anything possible?

If a child can be born as vibrant as Dahlia, or as fragile as Tikva, isn’t anything possible?

If we can move halfway around the world to try with all our hearts to help our baby live, is there anything we can’t do? If Tikva chose me as her Mama, how can my life be without meaning?

Possibility is tasty.

I have always been an optimist, even in my darkest times. I have had more hard times than many in my 37 years, so my eternal optimism sometimes surprises me. I must have been born this way, it just seems to be my nature – my spirit is a positive one. Maybe I just learned early on that if it’s possible to feel really bad, it must be possible to feel really good, too. I’ve always believed that you have to go through it to get through it. Maybe it’s true that knowing deep sorrow is the only real way of glimpsing profound joy. I don’t know… Maybe it’s not important to understand why the glass is half full through my eyes, but rather to be thankful for that part of who I am.

But back to possibility…

How do I reconnect with that sensation after so much possibility has been lost? How do I trust the possibility of happiness, fulfillment, even hope… after so much has been taken away? After so much letting go? How do I hold the likely possibility that I will one day birth and hold another healthy living child, and that it will be easy and smooth and real?

How?

I just do. Every day I make that choice. Every day, even when I’m not feeling it deep inside – and I have plenty of those days, too – I am choosing possibility. I’ve learned in my later thirties that I can actually choose what I focus on, that I am capable of readjusting my lens if what it is focused on isn’t making me feel good. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but the intention is there. Not an intention to always feel good – because sometimes I just need to cry and feel like crap. But a desire to remember that possibility is always there.

Before she was born and during her very short life, Tikva became such a symbol of hope, not just for me and my family but for so many others who followed her journey. Since her journey took her to another realm of existence, I have asked myself often, “How do I hold onto hope when hope has been lost? And how do I build new hope, new promise, new possibility?”

The thing is, possibility is always there, and hope is a thing with shallow roots but a powerful desire, always seeking to be replanted, to rise back up through the soil towards the moisture and the light. Towards beauty. Towards possibility. Towards love.

I have to admit that I didn’t find possibility at the museum. I actually went there already feeling it deep inside me. My eyes were open to seeing it, and there it was. The magic I encountered there reaffirmed promise, gave me permission to hope, showed me proof that more beauty is possible. And I was reminded of the incredible beauty that exists in the very short life of my little girl. I stood before a soft all-white arrangement of flowers and loved it completely because it reminded me of Tikva.

And Dahlia pointed at a stem of orchids hanging down from it and said, “That flower. That’s Tikva.”

Even though she’s gone, she’s never really gone. For me, Tikva will forever be proof that anything is possible. Not because she overcame the greatest odds and lived a long healthy life, but because she was powerful enough to teach me hope and possibility.

And the deepest love imaginable.

.::.

How do you hold possibility? Where does it hide after the loss of your baby(ies)? Where do you find it? 

Tuesday
Mar172009

the shape of grief

Upon Ferdinand's death was a big void. And I filled it with tears and words. I wrote and wrote and wrote, because I did not understand my grief and I had to figure it out.

There were many things repeated: the tears, the hollering, the pain, the hurt, the questions, the anger. Sometimes there were appreciation: gratitude, seeing the beauty.

But sometimes it seems my words were just not touching it, not describing the grief right. I really wanted to yell out to the world what it feels like, how it is, but it seems no matter how I string together the words, no matter how hard I contemplate the letters on my keyboard, there is a glass wall between me and grief. It seems I hold and cradle it, and I rock to sleep murmuring its name, yet it seems so intangible.

Then one day, my wonderful friend Leigh sent me this poem:

The Phoenix Again

On the ashes of this nest
Love wove with deathly fire
The phoenix takes its rest
Forgetting all desire.

After the flame, a pause,
After the pain, rebirth.
Obeying nature’s laws
The phoenix goes to earth.

You cannot call it old
You cannot call it young.
No phoenix can be told,
This is the end of the song.

It struggles now alone
Against death and self-doubt,
But underneath the bone
The wings are pushing out.

And one cold starry night
Whatever your belief
The phoenix will take flight
Over the seas of grief

To sing her thrilling song
To stars and waves and sky
For neither old nor young
The phoenix does not die.

~ May Sarton

and upon reading it, I broke down and cried. I realized that I have been trying to grope with the shape of grief, and perhaps denying what it was. The poem spoke to what I feared to face up to: I had died with my son.

And it spoke for what I desired: to live again.

Those words gave shape to my grief.

Often, it is when reading the blog of a fellow bereaved when I will chance upon a line that makes me say, or think, "Oh, my gosh, you just nailed it. You just said it for me, in a way more eloquent, and more beautiful, and more wide-eyed that I ever could."

Yet, it is not just the fellow bereaved who knew my grief, or who actively and compassionately sought to feel around this hole in my life, groping, tenderly touching, patiently trying to understand it all with me. At my Blessingway, organized by my two wonderful, incredibly awesome friends, a friend read the following poem during the session in which we all honor my son Ferdinand:

 

When in the paling darkness of the lonely dawn
you stretch out your arms for your baby in the bed,
I shall say, “Baby is not there!”–mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate draught of air and caress you;
and I shall be ripples in the water when you bathe,
and kiss you and kiss you again.

In the gusty night when the rain patters on the leaves
you will hear my whisper in your bed,
and my laughter will flash with the lightning
through the open window into your room.

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till late into the night,
I shall sing to you from the stars, “Sleep mother, sleep.”

On the straying moonbeams I shall steal over your bed,
and lie upon your bosom while you sleep.

I shall become a dream,
and through the little opening of your eyelids
I shall slip into the depths of your sleep;
and when you wake up and look round startled,
like a twinkling firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja,
the neighbours’ children come and play about the house,
I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb in your heart all day.

Dear auntie will come with puja-presents and will ask,
“Where is our baby, sister?”
Mother, you will tell her softly,
“He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is in my body and in my soul.”

~ Rabindranath Tagore

Oh, how I trembled as those words left her lips. Those words made me realize how close my son is to me, and yet how far away he is. Those words reached deep and touched me where it is the most raw and most tender. My entire being shook, down to the very depth of my soul, because in those words, my grief had once again been given shape. Those words beautifully expressed my grief and longing. I read the poem many times over after the Blessingway and cried many good crys.

::::

How about you? How do you find shape to your grief?- thrugh your own writing, by reading? Do you have a poem that you return to often, be it for comfort, or just to give yourself permission to have a good, good cry?