31 May 2010
I am pushing, and she is no help.
I push, and she moves back inside.
I push, and then I panic and hold on.
The doctor is yelling now to push.
People are surrounding me and watching.
Suddenly, I remember that if I push her out, she is gone for ever.
I hold her back inside of me.
PUSH...they scream. PUSH.
The doctor says as calmly as she can, "We need to get her out."
And if I could, I would pause right here; I would pause this entire day and ask, "Why?"
"Why dear doctor do we need to get her out now? What's the hurry?"
Because I am hurrying.
Because I am well-aware that the funeral home has been called, that they are on stand by, that it is Sunday and they close at 4:00 p.m. That everyone in the room thinks that she has to leave the hospital today and go to the funeral home because no one, no one has been told that Grace could stay with me for one or two days because this is 2003 and in 2003 in Spokane, the hospitals send the babies away to the funeral homes because no one has stood up and screamed at the top of their lungs:
"Let the babies stay with the mamas as long as the mamas and babies need to stay together."
This won't happen still for a couple of years and at the hospital where I gave birth, it won't happen for a very long time.
So I push and I pull and I push and I pull until finally, finally my body does what it has to do and Grace is born.
Only she is not crying.
Everyone else in the room is crying, and fear hangs in the air and fear takes over and fear is the thing that remains for a very long, long time.
And Grace arrives at noon, and we have four hours.
FOUR measly hours to hold her and look at her and touch her, and friends parade through the hospital and people measure her and weigh her and no one really wants to touch her too much because it is clear, it is very, very clear that she has been dead for a while inside of me though no one really tells me any of this.
No one tells me that a body starts to decompose inside of you when the body dies before it's born.
That might be the ugliest sentence I've ever written, but it is the truth. The body decomposes, and no one, not the doctor who was there or the nurses who have seen this before prepared me for the state of Grace. NO ONE.
And so fear entered the room and never left.
Fear hung around and stayed until finally, finally on the next day when my doctor who was out of town arrived, told me that Grace was perfect and she looked perfectly normal and all of the things that were happening to her body were perfectly normal.
MY BABY WAS NORMAL.
But for the briefest bit of time, I was led to believe something was wrong with her because the sucky doctor never said otherwise. And no one prepared me for this.
And I sat in my hospital bed thinking that something was wrong with her when actually nothing at all was wrong with her at all.
And all that I knew was that I didn't want anyone else to ever have to feel this way again. That I never wanted a mother to feel that lonely and that isolated and that much fear in the room with her again. That fear should never have been allowed to enter that day. That fear had no right to show up on my doorstep. That someone who knew what was going on should have stopped fear from entering the room.
I will shout from the top of the mountain for all the mothers who need more time with their babies.
There is no hurry. There is no rush. You may take all the time you need with your child. This is the only time you have.
Grace will never be forgotten.
Though I don't know it yet (I will soon), waking up for the next few months, is the worst part. Waking up and realizing what has happened, waking up and realizing my baby is dead, waking up and realizing that my baby is gone, this, this is the worst thing ever.
In the moment between waking and sleeping and realization is where I want to stay stuck.
At midnight, the nurse came in and gave me another cervadil. I was in labor and starting to dilate, but not by much.
So one more cervadil goes in. More morphine goes in. I have a magical button that I push when I need more morphine, and it magically dispenses the morphine directly into my bloodstream.
Then, 3 a.m. comes and I am dreaming (or am I awake?), I don't know, but I am suddenly floating above the room. I see myself below. I see my belly. I see my dead child. I see my body, and suddenly I am aware that I want to die, that I am dying, that a piece of me is dead.
It is an out-of-body experience. It is a near death experience more than likely brought on by the morphine, but I wake up and realize I am no longer floating above myself, that I am in fact still inside my body. And I realize that I no longer want to be inside my own body. That I really and truly want to be dead. I don't want to be alive.
Are these suicidal thoughts?
I will discover much, much later, that many other moms have this same experience of not wanting to live, of wanting to die, not so much out of wanting to die as much as wanting to be with their baby.
I want to be with Grace. I want to be where Grace is. I want death.
I stop the morphine. I call the nurse. I ask her to remove the drip from my body.
She asks me if I'm sure.
I am sure.
I want to feel this birth, I tell her. I tell my midwife that I am done with the drugs. I want to feel Grace. I want to feel this birth. I want to feel whatever it is I need to feel.
Still, I want to die.
And now I am bleeding.
Blood is everywhere. They can hardly stop the bleeding. My blood count goes way, way down. I hear them talk about transfusions. I think once again that really I might die. I wish them all away. Just leave me alone, and let the blood run out of me.
And then the bleeding stops.
I fall asleep. They go away.
I wake up at 6 a.m.
I am still pregnant.
Grace is still dead.
The world still makes no sense at all.
It is June 1st.
Today, I will give birth to my dead baby.
Today, I will give birth to death.
The day, the week, the month is suddenly longer than I can ever imagine.
Grace is dead and no miracle, I realize, will ever bring her back.
And then the work of hard labor is about to begin.
Soon, my labor will begin and in six hours, Grace will be born. Only hardly born at all.
Still, she will indeed, be born. Still born. Born still.
Spin it whichever way you'd like.
The story ends up the same way every time.
Grace is dead.
Our children have been brought to the hospital, and we have told them the devastating news--first that they have a sister but that she has died. Telling our children was the final crack in my heart already cracked wide open.
Calls have been made to family and a few friends.
Our pastor has arrived.
My mother is flying up from California.
We are on a runaway train without any guide book to help us navigate through this terrain.
The doctor, the sucky, sucky doctor who has not delivered a baby since graduate school has arrived. And I don't know it at the time, but I hate her. She is all business, all about the induction, all about getting this baby out of my body, and I just want to hold Grace inside and pause the moment.
Grace. We have named her Grace.
We have held that name through two babies, wanting to name one Grace but never feeling like it made sense--up until now. Grace. She is Grace and she is Susie. Sweet Susie, dear Susie, who just one year earlier died an unexpected death at age 36.
Some things make a lot of sense.
Many things make no sense at all.
I have been induced with a cervadil by the sucky doctor who leaves and informs the nurses to call her to return when my labor gets hard and delivery is close at hand.
But for the moment, nothing.
I sit in the bed and wait.
Our midwife and Terry take me for a walk, but first I have to be wheeled down into the waiting room in a wheelchair. And then I have to sign a form that says I am leaving hospital property to go on a walk, and that I don't hold them liable.
Of course I don't hold them liable. I hold myself liable.
My head spins with this reason and that reason. With this meal and that meal. With this illness and that illness. With this fall on the pavement and that dog running into me. With this small glass of red wine and that small thrust of anger directed at god knows what.
We are in a holding pattern.
My belly aches with the fullness of death, head down, body still.
Calls continue to come in from family around the country--some calls I can take. Some calls I can't. Some people, I decide, I never want to see again.
My two children remain in awe of the cable television in the hospital waiting room.
Babies are being born and happy parents are cooing and fawning over their new little bundles of joy.
A silk flower arrangement is hung on my door and this, this I come to find out, means 'dead baby inside. Enter carefully and speak quietly.'
What I really want to do is scream out loud. What I really want to do is shout at the top of my lungs. What I really want to do is run.
But I have been trained to be a good girl. I have been trained to be polite.
I worry, instead, about the nurses around me. They look so sad. I apologize to my midwife. I apologize to my pastor who has left her kids for the next 36 hours and left her sermon and left her family. I apologize to Grace. I'm sorry I failed you.
I never once apologize to myself.
I have never taken a drug related to birth. I have never taken the medication they offer.
And now, I want it all. I want a C-section, but they refuse that. 'Too dangerous,' they say.
What the hell does that mean? Too dangerous for a dead baby but perfectly fine for a live one?
I want the morphine. I take the morphine. I want to be drug-induced. I want numbness.
The nurses tell me I don't have to feel anything. My midwife tells me I can feel everything. I am confused by all of it. I am confused by everyone.
I want my baby.
The rest of the day continues in some kind of bizarre and surreal fashion.
People arrive to take my children on play dates. People arrive to see me, but I don't want to be seen. I refuse some and allow others.
I am waiting for labor to start.
I am dreading that labor will begin.
I am about to give birth to death.
I think of my father.
I thought that was the worst kind of thing, to be fatherless, for a child to lose their father.
That no longer becomes the worst kind of thing.
This is by far the worst thing ever.
I am without Grace. She is still inside my belly.
I wonder when her soul left me.
I wonder when she took her last breath.
I wonder when her heart stopped.
I wonder when mine, please god, when will my heart stop beating.
I don't want to be part of this body any longer. I don't want labor to begin. I want to crawl out of my body and run away.
I want Grace.
30 May 2010
Now, of course, this seems absurd. Ridiculous.
But then, I wanted everything about the moment to be wrong. I wanted to be wrong.
I wanted my baby to move.
Then there is the very real problem of the two other children fast asleep in our home, and so I reassure Terry that everything will be okay, and Tamy reassures me, and I get in the car and drive myself to Tamy's office alone while Terry stays behind with the children.
I am certain we will do a quick check and at worst, the baby's heart rate has slowed, and maybe, just maybe, I will be induced today and deliver our baby early.
Please just move.
I arrive at Tamy's office shortly after her, and she calmly tells me that we will check the heart rate with her doppler. She listens. I watch for signs. I watch her eyes. She hears something. Something. She is not sure though if the heart beat is mine or the baby's. I hold on to the something. Anything.
And so we both decide that going to a hospital is best.
I call Terry, and he has to call a friend to see if she would mind coming over. It's 5 a.m. on a Saturday. Who do you call at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to come to your house? Who do you call to wake up so early in the morning?
The children sleep.
Terry arrives at the hospital just as the technician, who is also woken up, arrives at the hospital.
She wheels in her machine.
The nurses stand toward the back of the room.
My doctor is out of town. They are trying to find another doctor.
Terry holds my hand while sitting in the chair next to the bed. Tamy stands at my feet. There is silence.
The gel goes on my tummy. More silence.
The technician quietly goes about moving the doppler across my tummy.
And now it all seems so ridiculous. The way the conversation went.
"Here is the baby's head," she says. "Here are the arms. The legs." She moves the doppler over my belly. "The spine."
No one says a word.
I watch eyes. I see the outline of the spine, the head, the neck.
I have to ask. I can't believe I have to ask, but I have to ask.
"And her heart?" I ask with a wide-open question mark at the end.
"Her heart beat?" I ask again.
There is an exchange of eyes once more.
"We are supposed to wait for your doctor to arrive," the technician says. "I am not supposed to say anything, but since your midwife is here..." she trails off.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I'm so sorry. There is no heartbeat."
The silence is heart-wrenching, surreal.
The world spins in the wrong direction.
"Can you tell me what the baby is? Can you tell me if it is a boy or a girl?"
"A girl," she says. "A little girl."
Move, goddammit, move.
The nurses begin to back out of the room.
I can hear Terry crying in the chair next to me.
My body is cold, so cold. The room is shrinking and growing all at the same time. I go numb. It's as if my entire self in some kind of protective measure tries to completely shut down. I cannot cry. I cannot move. I am shaking.
I only hear the pounding of my own heart.
The technician mumbles that she'll give us a few minutes, and she walks out of the room.
I can't understand anything that is going on. There is nothing anymore, nothing for a very long time that will ever make any sense. And some things will never make sense ever again.
May 31st has just begun, and it will be a very long day.
Some things about the day will be etched into my body forever. Everything runs into itself as one big, long paragraph without a beginning or end.
6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and most of Spokane is still asleep.
My baby shower is still being planned for the next day. Sunday.
And for one absurd moment, I worry about needing to cancel the baby shower.
Someone, somewhere pours herself a cup of coffee.
Someone, somewhere is reading the morning paper.
And someone in the hospital just told me that I will need to deliver this baby vaginally. That I will need to be induced.
And I will give birth to death.
The world continues to spin in all the wrong directions.
It is May 30. And here is how the day will go:
I will go to a friend's house today, and I will try to get Sophia down for a nap. She is 2 1/2 years old. She is so tired. I am so tired, but I haven't been able to stop, not for a moment.
My friend will offer her bedroom to us as a sanctuary, and I will gladly take it.
Sophia and I will lie down together, and I will rub her back, and she will fall asleep. I am so tired, that I too, will fall asleep. And as I do, I will rub my belly. I am so tired that when I notice the baby isn't moving, I make note of it for sure, but I push it aside in my head.
I fall asleep and Sophia wakes me up an hour later jumping out of bed.
I tell my friend I am still sleepy, but I don't want to sleep anymore. I tell her I've been depressed for a few days, but the afternoon continues as if nothing is wrong. I keep pushing aside that voice in my head. I want that voice in my head to go away.
I will fall into bed late because the children have been exhausting today. Two and five years old.
And as I fall asleep, I will place my hands on my belly, lie on my side and wonder when exactly it was that I last felt the baby move. A sudden darkness and fear rises inside of me, and panic sets in.
But I am so, so tired. I have been so tired for more than a day.
I fall asleep.
But a few hours later something wakes me, jolts me awake, and I can feel my heart pounding inside of me. It is 2:00 a.m.
I get up and walk downstairs.
I do the only thing I can remember to do. I drink a glass of sweet grape juice.
I walk up the stairs and down the stairs.
Everyone sleeps. The air hangs low, and I feel my heart beat. I feel my heart beat.
I turn on the computer and type in fetal movement. I type in counting baby kicks. I follow every instruction and every suggestion.
It is 3 a.m.
I cannot feel my baby moving.
I go backward in time searching for the moment, trying to remember when exactly it was that I last felt the baby move.
There is no moment. There is just a memory of always movement. Of every few hours pausing in my day, my busy, busy day to hold my belly while she kicked. There is a memory of stopping mid-sentence while I talk to catch my breath as she pounded against me, while she moved.
And then there is the moment in the night trying desperately to remember the last moment.
Trying desperately to pinpoint a moment, any moment as a sign as a vehicle through which I could enter to find blame. A moment when I could say, this then is when her heart stopped beating, and there is nothing I could have done. This then is when her heart stopped beating, and I should have done something.
I want a moment.
I want there to be a moment when I paused, when my heart stopped too, when I could say, “I’m sorry.” I want a moment when I could say, “Goodbye.” I want a moment where I could change the course of things to come.
There is no moment.
There is only the darkness descending. The milky tears which fall from my breast. The fullness of the world around me feeling so empty.
It is 3:30 a.m., and I go back upstairs to wake up Terry.
This becomes my moment.
23 May 2010
Have you ever touched its wings only to discover that they can break or tear with just the slightest tapping.
I am that fragile.
If you were to hold me in your hands, if you were to touch me, I may just crack for you. I might just fall to pieces.
Today, I was tested for explosives at the airport. I was in line, waiting for my flight, minding my own business, watching a group of Thai people in front of me get their passports checked. And then as I was walking forward with my own boarding pass and driver's license, a security guard appeared out of nowhere and said, "Please follow me, ma'am."
She then proceeded to wipe down my hands with a cloth, run the cloth through a machine. She placed my hands on some kind of scanner. She took my license and ran that through something and then felt me up and down.
"Do you mind if I ask what you are doing?" I asked.
"Testing you for explosives," she said with a smile as if I'd just asked her what she was watching on tv, and she had answered, "Dora the Explorer, of course."
I spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out if I was just a random person in line chosen to be tested or if I was looking and acting in some suspicious manner.
And then for a moment, I thought, the security guards at the airport can see inside my head! Of course I'm being tested for explosives. They are looking in my head, and they can see what's going on. They can see that I am filled with explosives.
My head is certainly about to explode. My head is certainly ready to blow up. My head is certainly filled with explosives.
What if we could see inside of a person's head, inside her brain? Are there so many faces we wear that we would be surprised by what we really saw inside of each other?
There are some parents who come to our support group who know before their babies die, that their babies are going to die. They come because they know that the baby growing inside of them is going to die. And I can't for the life of me really know what that must be like. To have the knowledge ahead of time that the baby you are carrying will die. There is something beautiful about the way they are able to prepare, to say goodbye, to hold on to what they will not have for long.
If I could go back and hold on to what I would not have for long, I would.
If I could go back in time, there are words that I've spoken that I would take away from my mouth.
If I could go back in time, there are moments when I would pause longer before I speak, I would pause before I take a breath, I would pause before I ... Can you finish that sentence with me? What would you pause before doing?
I would let the butterfly land on my hand and with its own legs, I would let it sit still. I would resist the urge to touch her wings and instead, I would watch in awe at the intricacies of her wings, of the colors and patterns and way in which her wings flap back and forth slowly as if testing her stability.
If I could, I would pause the world right now, to see who else out there feels at least this broken, this fragile, this unsure of whether or not I should take off and fly or try to find my cocoon to burrow back into?
When you have set before you two choices--to walk or run--to stay or go--to grieve or forget--what would you choose? It is easy for me to choose grieving over forgetting. That one is not really a choice at all. But the other two confound me.
What if everything I thought I knew about grief, about death, about choosing wasn't true at all.
For an infant, it is easy. You choose the mother, you choose the breast, you choose the one that sustains you and fills your tummy.
But as we grow older, as we turn from the caterpillar into the butterfly, the choices are not always so clear.
And for the baby who never takes a breath outside of the womb, the choice no longer lies in the ability to choose the cocoon over the butterfly. The choice then is left up to the parents to figure out how in the world they choose to live the rest of their lives.
And therein lies our fragility. The world no longer makes sense. The world no longer moves in an orderly fashion.
The world took the butterfly first and left the cocoon behind.
21 May 2010
And so whether or not there is famine in Africa, whether or not there are earthquakes in Haiti, my heart still feels like it's cracking. The initial quake set the stage many years ago, created my fault line. As a child experiencing death, losing a parent, the fault line emerged and settled into my body.
Then, a larger kind of quake happened years later when that child, now a parent experienced the death of her own child. The fault line rumbled, the earthquake roared, the buildings tumbled, the glass shattered into a million pieces around her.
And the fault line remains: larger, more fragile, more tenuous.
"Wherever you go, there you are."
What kind of platitude stands more in opposition to hope and love than this one? This platitude stands alone creating its own fault line.
And so I wander the streets. I board an airplane. I run out of my life. And still, here I am with the fault line still cracking, with the walls still tumbling. With Grace still dead.
There may not be a four-letter word more real, more alive, more grief-filled than that: Dead. Gone. Over.
And other things still happen to make me realize: Dead. Gone. Over.
Seven years. Seven times seven. Seventy times seven. The earthquake returns. The ground shakes. The glass rattles. And I use all my force, all my power, all my energy to keep the walls from crashing down.
'The moon is hiding in
And still, wherever I go, here I am. There is no escape. There is no running away.
And wherever I go, Grace is still dead. There is no escape. There is no running away.
"cover her briefness in singing
Twilight has come. Dusk has fallen.
17 May 2010
I packed my suitcase after getting mad at my mom, and I told her I was running away. She helped me finish packing, opened the front door and let me go. I walked half way down the street while looking back at the house and finally, turned around and came running home.
I want to run away.
Tonight, I took the dog and ran 2 1/2 miles. That hardly seems very far at all, but honestly I'm not a runner and so I felt the distance of the miles. It was nearly 10 p.m., and I hadn't been out that late in the evening on my own in years. I felt like I could have run straight out of my life.
I felt like I could have kept running.
I was tired for sure. I was breathing hard. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. And toward the end of my run, I could see lightening in the distance moving closer toward me. Then thunder came and just as I was finishing up, the rain started.
While I was running, I thought about what might happen if I just kept going, if I didn't stop. I wondered where I would end up, what might happen, how far I could travel. And as I got more tired, I realized that I probably couldn't travel very far at all. In fact, I was ready to turn back home after only a couple miles. And when I couldn't run any farther, I started walking.
Do you ever just want to run out of your life, away from your past, toward some unknown future that has to seem better than what is in the now?
I want to run through the rest of May and past June 1. I want to rewind the tape and go back to May 27, on the day that Grace's heart was beating, 140 beats per minute and I want to tell my midwife to induce labor now, to get her out of my body and onto my chest. I want her heart to beat again, to pound in her chest, to see her nearly seven-year-old self chasing after her best friend. I want to find her shoes scattered across the living room floor like the rest of children's shoes are, and I want her tossing and turning in her own bed or in her sister's bed each of them taking up way too much room, unable to lie straight with the covers neatly tucked around themselves.
I want her to tell me she doesn't want the corn and edamame salad at dinner, and that she doesn't like the grilled tofu. I want her to pull at my leg as I'm putting on my tennis shoes to go out for a run, and I want her to stop me from going.
And I want all four of my children lined up, side by side, running along beside me without knowing what it means to want or long for or pine for or wish for.
I want the laundry piled up even higher with her clothes tossed in, and I want the dishes stacked taller and the enormity of our lives even larger.
I want to simply feel overwhelmed by being a parent not overwhelmed by a sort of grief that continues to pull me into these dark spaces, that continues to enlarge my heart in ways that I no longer want it enlarged.
I want to shout at the top of a mountain that I didn't want this, that I didn't choose this, that I could think of 20 people I'd rather have dead than Grace, that certainly someone else could have handled it better. That maybe those people who know how to shut down and shut out and turn off would be a better person for all of this grief, that they could have done a much better job. That maybe denial has a really good reason for showing up in people's lives because the protection from denial right now seems pretty good.
I want to climb to the top of the mountain and down the other side.
I want to run away.
I want to put on my running shoes again and head out into the storm to let the thunder and lightening and rain come crashing down.
It is in these moments that I most remember that love is the reason for all of this. Love is the reason for grief. Love is the reason for denial. Love might be the only real reason for us to be in this world. And that love without Grace sometimes seems kind of pointless. But then there are the faces of the other three.
And it is in their faces that I most can find Grace.
It is in their love where she exists.
And if I can find her there, then really nothing else matters.
This then is how grief works.
This then is what love is.
This is where grace matters most of all.
16 May 2010
Mother Teresa said, "Loneliness and the feeling of being unloved, is the most terrible poverty."
There is a very sense of poverty then after your child dies. There is a desperate sense of loneliness, and the curtains on the world fade. There is no one who knows this as well as the parents of a dead child.
Around this time, about three weeks before Grace died, I sent a desperate middle-of-the-night email to my midwife. I told her that I couldn't stop crying. I told her that I felt overwhelmed, depressed, and incredibly sad. I told her that I didn't know why, that I'd never experienced this with my other two children, and I hardly knew what to do.
There was, of course, nothing to do. The baby's heart beat. My check ups didn't detect anything unusual and all my stats were normal.
My midwife did the only thing she could which was to reassure me that hormones can play havoc with our bodies and that many women feel emotionally unsettled.
I still have that email.
I read it sometimes, and my body goes cold. A numbness settles.
Was this some kind of premonition? Was this the precursor to what was coming? There were signs coming out me from all angles. Only a month before this email, on Easter morning, Sophia, age 2 1/2 walked out the back door at a friends house, down the driveway and headed on her own away from all of us, three blocks from the party. She was crossing a busy street, wandering around, with no one running after her.
I thought she was in the house with Terry, and he thought she was outside with me.
A couple found her and carried her from house to house knocking on doors: Is this your child? Do you know this child? Until they found our party, until they found us, laughing and chatting, Easter candy strewn all around us.
And I looked at this stranger carrying my daughter confused in that moment of the series of events leading up to this. Time began to slow way down and my head began to pound as I pieced together the story.
I took Sophia in my arms, and she immediately fell asleep. I held her and cried, and saw before me a flash of what it meant to lose a child. And I remember thinking, This would be my undoing. This, losing my daughter, would send me over the edge and into an abyss that I could never return from.
Was this a sign, a premonition of what was coming?
I could give you more instances, more examples, but I think the point is simply that in all of this, I never could have predicted that I could have survived this sort of thing. I never would have predicted that seven years later, I would find hope, seek joy, find laughter and sing.
If we were made aware of our traumas, if we could see what was coming, surely we would try to run the other way.
But by some miracle of grace, we do survive and sometimes, if we are lucky, we come out stronger in the process. Certainly more vulnerable, but stronger too.
And therein lies the dichotomy in all of this grief: Here is my grief, for sure, present, daily, surrounding me and yet here is grief's companion: joy, present, daily, surrounding me.
And hope does exist because I am surrounded by people in my life that give me hope, that give me reasons to live. And still, and yet, there is Grace alive in my mind, missing in our lives, wreaking great havoc on my heart and expanding my ability to love.
The weeks are closing in on me. The memories come at me like shooting stars out of nowhere. I can be staring up at a sky filled with light, filled with stars pulsing in the night and then suddenly, one drops down quickly, out of the night sky, appears before me in a flash and disappears.
I can see Sophia in my mind, two and a half years old, walking down a neighborhood street. Was she looking for me? I have to believe she was. And I was unaware that she had walked out of my life for a moment while Grace still growing inside of me was living her life in the only way she'd ever know--inside of my body, forever cocooned from the world, sheltered within my womb, her little heart beating its last beats forever with just a few weeks to go.
Hope still exists.
Shadows move in and out of my life.
Grace continues to matter.
12 May 2010
It starts on an ordinary day in May. Each year, it surprises me. One moment I am walking, I am gardening, I am driving, I am playing with my children, and then.
Then, a single tear falls.
Falling quite suddenly out of nowhere really. It just appears on my face, and I can't quite figure out why.
A few days later, it happens again.
Only this time it doesn't really stop.
It keeps falling.
One after another.
And then the flood arrives.
And I remember.
How many weeks do I have left?
How many days do I have left?
When was that moment when she stopped breathing?
Was it the evening of May 28, Wednesday, or the early morning of May 29, Thursday?
There is a fog, then in those days before and those days after.
There is a haze in the days of knowing she was alive and the days of knowing she was dead.
There was the day of knowing.
There was the day of confirming what I'd dreaded knowing.
There was the day of waiting.
There was the day of delivery.
And they are all there, the days stacked upon each other.
And I wonder, what day then is the day I mourn her death? What day then is the day I celebrate her birth.
It is not a day. It is not a moment.
It is a week of hell.
It is a week of trauma.
It is a week of remembering.
It is a week of Grace.
It is a month of Grace.
It is a lifetime without Grace.
And in these days and weeks leading up, it is a time of holding. Of wondering. Of pondering. Of wishing. Of pining.
And none of it ever goes away.
May comes. It is my roaring like a lion, and there is no exit like a lamb.
It is my lament.
It is my longing.
It is my emptiness.
It is my hole.
June will come and Grace will still be missing.
My four-letter word:
My four letter word:
No matter where you put those words, no matter what order, they are without.
With and without.
And with grace.
It starts with a single tear.
10 May 2010
Though I try and tear down walls and mend fences and stop wars, I cannot do all of these things. Though I try desperately to only love and only heal and only grow, I cannot do and feel and be without doing and feeling and being all of the rest.
There are some of these though, that are more difficult to feel.
It is difficult to hate.
I remember after Grace died, literally, hating, absolutely hating babies.
And the first time I saw one and the thought crossed my mind, "I hate you," I was horrified. How can a person hate a baby? It was probably one of the lowest, darkest moments of my life.
It is difficult to be uprooted.
I was uprooted this week. Upended. And there was not a damn thing I could do about it. Out of my control again. I am waiting to be planted. I am waiting again to bloom. I am waiting to sprout.
But in the meantime, I am tearing down; I am scattering stones; I am searching; I am silent; I am mourning that which can never be.
There is a time, indeed, for weddings and funerals, for life and death, for love and war. And it is good to be reminded of these things. Even those of us with the best intentions and the best hope, can feel despondent.
I no longer hate babies. I get pleasure out of holding them. Though if you had told me I would find pleasure in babies nearly seven years ago, I might have torn out your eyes. Rage, envy, lust was at the heart of all of my emotions then. Feelings foreign to me. Feelings that made me uncertain of where to turn, who to trust, where to go.
And I see that look now in the eyes of a newly bereaved parent. It doesn't take much to remember, to go back, to sit with them. It is in this time and in this season where I am most fully alive, where I am blessed. There is nothing more sacred and holy than being in communion with a parent who has just lost a child. To sit. To watch. To wonder.
I am blessed indeed. Even in times of absolute despondency and hopelessness, hope prevails.
It is in these seasons of life that I most recall the seasons of death.
And in these moments, I am alive. I am alive. I am alive.
07 May 2010
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to protect yourself, things fall apart.
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to protect yourself, the best lack all conviction.
Sometimes, it is just one of those weeks.
Exhaustion sets in.
Grief takes hold.
Unexplained emotions rise to the surface and there is no stopping them.
World War I poets like Yeats must have felt as if the world was spinning out of control with no end in sight. Perhaps they really did think This is it! Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen felt the same way. These war poets wouldn't know about WWII yet. Would never find out about Vietnam, Korea, Persian Gulf wars.
But they all share something in common. They know the trauma of loss first hand from being in the battlefield. They know the trauma first hand from the horror of those moments, the sound of the guns, the cracking of the bombs, the acrid smell of burning bodies.
It doesn't take 100 bodies to become overwhelmed. It doesn't take guns and ammunition and bombs dropped from above.
One child dead at birth.
One child dead before birth.
One child ripped from your arms.
And you remember the sound of the monitor and your own heart beating while the other one lies silent. You remember the sound the wheels made on the ultrasound machine wheeled in the room to have 'one quick look to see what's going on.' You remember the metallic taste in your mouth when all moisture suddenly disappeared and your jaw clicked together when you tried to talk but no words came out. You remember the way the room became cold, frigid really as you started shivering uncontrollable unable to regulate your body heat. You remember the sound of the bomb being dropped, "I'm sorry, your baby is dead." and the silence that hangs in the air. You remember thinking you never knew silence could be so deafening that you needed to cover your ears to make it go away.
This has been a week filled with hope and wanting. It has been a week filled with disappointment and sadness. It has been a week, a full week, of the full emotional range.
I have met two more this week, two more babies no longer with us. Two more babies whose mothers fall to pieces when they talk. And I continued to be amazed at the courage of these parents, at the love, at their genuine hopelessness and hopefulness. I continue to be amazed.
My own life spins somewhat chaotically this week. Unpredictably.
So much so that I question so much about the direction of my life at the moment, but on some level, I have to trust in the fact that things will continue to present themselves to me, things will continue to make sense at some point, things will continue to improve.
I am not without wanting, longing, desire.
While I was convinced at one time in my life, that longing was just folly, I am more convinced now that longing is a part of who I am--constructing its path for me, teaching me patience, laying down its gifts.
It is difficult though, in a week like this to see that far ahead into the future. It is difficult to understand the implications.
The darkness drops again.
And still, I hope, I wonder, I wait.