Friday, September 18, 2009

Living with 'IT'

Both Tash and Charmer wrote great posts this week about life after and perspective and how us db moms are seen through the eyes of the world. It struck me in the reading, how irked I get when people gloss over the grief, the whole process of grief.

At two years out, I am not anywhere near the same place I was that black September of 07. My life has evolved, moved on, continued. Really, when you think about it, there were only two choices, find a way to go forward or die. I chose the former. I had to. I had two other children who needed me to. I don't know, honestly, what I would have done if they hadn't needed me. I don't know how far I would have fallen, how deep the depression would have taken me. I have watched others who lost their first baby, find their way out. I like to hope I would have too. But none of us ever really know how we would carry someone elses burden. How we would react to any given situation. We know our own life, we take what is thrown at us and we try to figure out how to muddle through. We stumble, we falter, we collapse. And then somehow, we get up. Maybe it was a hand reaching through the darkness, or a voice calling out to us that reminded us we weren't alone. Maybe it was sheer force of will. Or a combination of all of it. The knowing there were others out there, the desire to start anew, the absolute determination not to give up. At least not yet.

And it is all of that, all of that hard work, that inner battle of demons, the taking on of forces beyond our control, the daily, sometimes hourly or even the minute by minute by second by second fight to survive, to continue, to exist, it is the all of that, that people don't see, they don't get, they can never understand. And it is in the missing of this part of the journey that makes it so easy for them to caricature a db mom into some sort of misfit, or episodic tragedy. "oh, she has a dead baby, that's why she is _____". It makes for a nice story line, a wonderful tragic event that turns the best, most capable woman into a weeping pile of compost, no longer able to function in a 'normal' world. Just last nite I watched last years season finale of 'pri.vate prac.tice'. I don't watch this show, I don't know the characters but, lucky me, one of the main characters, a psych of some sort, was pg and her patient showed up at her house with a needle full of some drug so that she(patient) could literally rip the baby out of main characters belly. Why? you may ask...because her baby died and that is what db moms do. We wander the earth seeking out other pg moms who must be carrying our db and then we slice them open and take what is rightfully ours...sighs.

I hate that that is how we are portrayed. I hate that the middle ground, where most of us reside, is so forgotten in the talking about child loss. We here throw the db moniker around so freely, we say the words, DEAD BABY all the time and sometimes it slips over into my other life and I *shudder* say it out loud. "I talked to my friend, my DEAD BABY friend about ______and..." and then the conversation stops because everyone has dropped jaws and wide eyes and argh how do we respond to that they wonder. Even my good SF friend said to me recently, "You have to find another name for your group." And I said to her, no we don't, it is a perfectly horrific name for us because what happened to us was HORRIFIC. It should make you cringe. It should make you stop and think. You should have to pause and for the tiniest of moments feel the least bit of awe and yes, maybe even uncomfortable, because MY BABY DIED. I don't want pity, I don't expect you to know or 'get' what I feel, I know you can't, but I do want you to stop for a minute and try and recognize what it is that I have lived through. What I lost and what I am living without.

There is more to baby loss, child loss, than the loss. There is the living with the loss. The loss, it kills you. And then somehow, you are resurrected. You find yourself within the shell of what you used to know, all things around you seemingly unchanged, life has gone on and you are standing in the middle of it, stripped bare, empty, and still the world requires you to be you. Sure there is the 'appropriate' grieving time, but after that, get on with it, move on, live, god damn it, live. And begrudgingly, most of us do. But it takes so much work to do it. But each day we rise and face the sun and we do, live with it. People have remarked, "I don't know how you do it, I could never have recovered from a loss like that" or some other variation of those words. And I think to myself, yes you would. You do somehow recover. It doesn't happen overnight, it doesn't even happen because you want it to. Truthfully, in the beginning, recovering doesn't even seem like an option. It is a concept that you can't even grasp. In the beginning you want the darkness to swallow you whole and never spit you out. But as the long, hard days and even darker, endless nights stretch out and become weeks and then months, you find yourself struggling to be free of the darkness once more. Is the daylight more appealing? Not really, but the cold, shadowy pit of grief has become less comforting and so you seek an alternate place of refuge. And you rejoin the world of the living because it is no longer the people you want to hide from but your feelings. All of them.
Those first few weeks of mingling between the night and the day, the dark and the light, were for me the most trying and exhausting days of my life. After the immediacy of the days surrounding losing Caleb had passed, the days when I buried my head and my heart, my former life beckoned me. My children cried out for me. And I went to them. And it took every ounce of energy I had to get up each day and function, even at the barest minimum. To talk with other parents, to drive, to attend meetings and sporting events, to plan, to execute, to grocery shop, to make any decisions at all, it sucked what little life I had within me, right back out of me. It wasn't until December, almost four months later that I stopped moving long enough to let myself breathe. And then I collapsed, physically and mentally. Auto pilot shut off and I went down. I needed to. I didn't stay there for long but it was enough to remind me that there was a lot more to healing than just waking up everyday. And there still is.
Two years later, my life has traversed many a road. All of our lives have. We may look mostly the same to the people who see us, we may even seem amazingly similar to the person we were 'before', shhh, our babies died. I can laugh, I can sing, (badly), I can do most any of the things I used to do. Just as all of the mothers I know who have also lost their babies are doing. It has been and continues to be, a mighty struggle to do this. Which isn't to say it hasn't gotten easier because it has, but nonetheless, it is a struggle, with some days, most days, infinitely better than others.
Which brings me back to what irks me. It has taken a lot to get here. It was, it is, a process. It is still happening. I didn't get here be accident or by design but I did get here. We all got here. Where is here? It is ordinary. It is day to day. It is nothing special and yet it is still extraordinary. It's not locked up in a padded room, it is not seeking out the pg woman who has somehow stolen my baby and tucked it away into her uterus and it is not a vengeful, unfeeling, demented woman. It is a plain wrapped, basic, sometimes witty and occasionally smart assed mom, it might be an accountant, or a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a writer, a sports enthusiast, a computer guru, it comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes as you and me. I wish people could see that beyond the polar extreme of bat shit crazy there exists the lot of us. The db moms who wander in their world, our world too. And I wish that they would see us for who we really are.
Not fantastic, not superheros, not someone who has done something they could 'never' do. Nope, we are just db moms and we are living with it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I've thought about what to say, what to write here after 2 years. Is there more to say? Have I left anything out? I've told his story, what little there is to tell. The real story doesn't have words and it continues on each day, even though he is long gone from me. Physically gone that is. I guess that is what becomes so hard. As each day passes he slips farther away from my physical self. The memory of his kicks and rolls within me dim and are overshadowed by the nightmare of his birth. The feeling of him literally slipping out of my body and away from this earth. The hollowness of my empty belly, the numbness of my legs and mind, they are what I remember.
I think from the outside to the casual and even not so casual observer, I appear healed. I'm not.

There is no real healing when you lose a child. There is no point in time where you are able to evaluate your loss and make peace with it. Not for me. It will never be okay, it will never sit comfortably in my cache of emotional baggage as something I have 'gotten over'. Yes, I have resumed my life, I have laughed again, I have been silly, I have thrown a party or two and I have even had another baby, but none of those things have made any difference in the loss of my son, Caleb. His absence is still enormous. I look at my three living children as they play together, the two older ones fawning over their little brother and I see him, not there. I even stop myself sometimes when I think how happy it makes me to see them all together and I think of him, not here, missing the tickles of his siblings, missing their light kisses on his head, missing their continuous antics to make a giggle erupt, and I think how robbed he was, how robbed we all were. My oldest recently said to me out of nowhere, "I wish we had them both here mom.", and I knew it is not just me who feels that his absence is so huge that it is palpable.

A day has not gone by where I haven't thought of him, missed him, yearned for him. I think people believe that losing a baby, a child, is like any other death. They acknowledge the greater tragedy, but not the greater grief. What makes the grief so hard for me is that there just isn't that point where I can look back and reminisce and share fond memories of him and his life. There is no past with which I can comfort myself in the future. His past is his death. His tiny, short life within me was just exactly that, within me. No one else shared it. No one else even saw him, only my husband and I. And his pictures are not ones that bring me comfort. They break me. They reflect a baby who had his life stolen away from him. A perfectly tiny baby with every tiny piece of his body in place, ready to face life only to have it choked out of him by a cord defect. I can't reminisce or look back fondly on our time together because it all wraps itself in the cloak of his numbered days with me. With us.

He permeates my being. He is such a huge part of who I am and yet to most people he doesn't exist. If he is acknowledged at all it is because someone might say or think, "Oh yea, she is the one whose baby died." which makes it about me and my loss not about him and what he lost.
I remember sitting with him at the mortuary telling him he was wanted and loved and trying to reassure myself that I told him all the things I should tell him but having no idea how to do it. My husband left the room, he couldn't even bear to look at Caleb, just as he doesn't talk about him now. Too much. Way too much. So I sat alone with him, just as I sit alone with his memory now, and I try to make sure I say the right things, that I tell him what he needs to know, that I do right by him.

Even now as he drifts farther away from me, I feel the need to pull him closer. To make myself remember the tiniest of details about him and his brief time here on this earth. And to make his life meaningful, to make it matter, to make sure that it is clear he mattered, that he still does and that he always will, matter. I never want anyone to think he is something I got over. I won't. I will live my life without him, everyday. And everyday I will think of him, I will miss him, I will love him and I will wish like hell he was still here. Because like my son, I want both of them, Cason and Caleb, here.

Two years ago, on September 1, 2007, I gave birth to my son Caleb. He never took a breath, cried or opened his eyes. He never felt my hand as I lifted his foot to look at his tiny perfect toes. He never heard my cries as I felt him leave my body. He never heard me tell him I love him. But I said it anyway and still do to this day. I whisper it to the winds and the skies and hope that he hears it. Hope that he knows, that he knew.

People say that there isn't a word to describe the pain you feel when you lose a child. In my head I say yes, there is, and I whisper,