Monday, February 18, 2013

Somewhere, inside, I knew.

My posts of late have been sad - or at least highlighting the complicated, devastating side to my grief. I should say that this post is likely no different in that regard, though I am having several days of getting by OK.  The low tide days are frequenting me - I just feel less inclined to write about them once the kids go to bed.  It's the harder days, or the harder aspects of this grief, that energize my writing.  I've never promised anything to readers, so I am not going to really apologize for this - but I do want those of you who read this to know that I am not in the corner crying all of the time.  Not right now at least, and for that I am thankful.  So, on with my post...

I have always had insight into my blessings - at least I like to think so.  I grew up with an older sister and two older brothers.  Two parents who are happily married - and who never split up or argued in front of me.  Grew up in a family that was comfortable financially, affording me great privilege.  I went to college at a wonderful institution, and then put myself through graduate school immediately following.  Employment in my field started the very morning following my graduation from the masters program.  Wonderful friends and family are a constant in my history.  Health was never a major concern - for myself or my immediate family.  I met the one I was to marry at just 17-years-old - and we knew that we would live our lives together.  Married at 23 - which in the Northeast is quite young nowadays.  The blessings went on and on, and still do truthfully.

As my life was smooth and filled with happiness I appreciated that this wasn't always a given.  In fact, I watched as two of my childhood friends' parents passed away of cancer, knew those who struggled with addiction issues, witnessed the strain of difficult family dynamics on friends, and more.  So I knew struggle, pain and tragedy were part of life - likely an unavoidable part.

In my mid-twenties I would catch myself, only occasionally, contemplating what the pain, what the tragedy of my life would be.

I should say here that I am a mildly anxious person as it is.  The type who worries over minor details regularly - not really major worries.  I am not kept up at night worrying if that germ will harm my loved ones, or if the world is safe for my children.  But as a teen I struggled with letting things go.  In college and graduate school I worked hard to improve this part of myself - and believe I mitigated the resulting stress and anxieties quite well.

I offer this information to explain that I may be a worrier about the small stuff, but not the big things in life.  So when I silently wondered what my tragedy would be, and I had an instinctual answer of sorts, I cannot dismiss this gut feeling as my anxieties.

The answer that was felt in my soul to that very question, was the something would happen to one of my children.  Did I know this?  I mean, really know it?  No.  But that general thought was the first to come to mind, and the only one to linger, whenever that question came up.  I didn't dwell on the thought.  Would dismiss it as "just one of the possibilities" actually.  But when my son died 9 months ago, after that shock wore off, I cannot sit here and tell you that I am utterly shocked how the tragedy of my life has revealed itself.  Medically I was shocked, still am.  Pregnancy was always "easy" for me.  My OB told me to have 6 babies because they went so well.  All until they didn't.  I was shocked for a long time that I somehow was mother to a dead baby.  But I think, perhaps, somewhere inside I knew something might happen to one of my children.  What that something was to possibly be, I had no idea - and I didn't spend much, if any, time on it.  That's not a pretty road to go down - particularly when it is out of your control.

I've never told this to anyone before.  Not before I spoke with my friend Lee two days ago.  I asked her if she thought I was crazy.  She said no, that we are spiritual beings as well as physical and social beings.

This, perhaps, intuition that I buried makes me think of a number of women who delivered babies who were stillborn.  On Glow (an online support resource for parents whose babies have died) there was a thread about this very idea - an intuition that something bad was going to happen to their babies.  I was amazed, though not shocked, to hear several women speak of a sense that they would never get to bring their babies home for some unknown reason.  A few dreamed of attending their baby's funerals rather than dreaming of their babies being alive.  For no known reason - no medical concerns identified at that time.

So here I am, wondering, in awe of our spiritual beings.  Did I really know, somewhere inside of me, that something tragic would happen with one of my children?  Can people really anticipate (apart from medical or major mental health conditions) life shaping events?  I tend to think it is possible.  As I write this I know life holds many unknowns for me and my family going forward.  But I no longer have that knot, buried inside, wondering if something bad will happen to my children.  It already has.  And Ethan is no longer suffering.  And I am surviving, by the grace of God.  I know more bad things could happen to our older three children, but I (perhaps irrationally) feel that the worst outcomes will not happen for my children at this time.  Somehow I believe that if they get sick, they will heal.  That if a tv falls upon them (as it did with Ryan) that he will somehow be OK.  It's an interesting mix to have PTSD - and the uncontrollable responses to triggers, and a sense of peace, of faith that my family will be OK going forward.  It makes for a beautiful mess.  I guess it makes for my grief and healing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent, my way.

Ethan inspires me to be more.  Be better.  Love more.  I told him I would honor him in this way.  

Today is Ash Wednesday.  Yes, I chose to get my ashes - kind of cool having these moments officiated by my best friend & husband.  Most of you know I was raised Catholic - though I am no longer.  (Now I am Congregational - a denomination of the Protestant practice.)  Being raised Catholic Ash Wednesday meant it was time to "give something up" for the 40-days of Lent.  I think the idea behind this was to symbolize, on a ridiculously small scale, the sacrifices that Jesus made as he journeyed into the wilderness for 40 days.  As a kid that usually meant giving up something I really liked to eat - something sugary.  Ice cream one year.  Chocolate another.  As a young adult I explored my Christian faith a bit further.  Wondered how substituting one version of a sugary desert for another really made me a better Christian?  So one year, in my early 20s I think, I gave up swearing.  (I don't swear at people very often, you should know.  But I am raised just outside of Boston, and went to school in the city for 6 years - so I can swear a bit)  

And now, it is Ash Wednesday once again.  The first time since Ethan's death.  So I sit here and ask myself, honestly - how can I use this Lenten season to make myself a better Christian?  Rather than avoiding deserts I will be adding something to my day.  Something to make me a better Christian.  I will be trying to pray at each meal with my family - not just at dinner or the occasional lunch as well.  Also, I will be trying to tell others what I love about them more often.  Here is one of today's attempts to show my friends God's love.

so i have always felt close to you - from before the days of pink glasses and terrible bangs that my mother wouldn't let me grow out.  you define the word friend.  you must know this.  having so many people in your life who count you as their best friend, or certainly one of their closest.  you have a gentle way about staying in touch with people - even in their darkest hour (for me with ethan - or rather without ethan) that lets them know you are genuinely there for them.  and you actually mean it.  i love the way you allow me to speak about my fourth child, and don't get freaked out by the fact that i am speaking of a dead baby.  because he is my son, first and foremost - and you remember that with me.  i love the way you are funny - and don't take yourself, or allow anyone else, to take themselves too seriously.  people are always laughing around you - and that is a gift you offer.  i don't know your fiance well (yet) but that seems to be something  you have in common with each other.  i love and respect the way your family is the center for you - and i have often thought of your family, your relationships with your parents, and brothers growing up - and still to this day, as things for me to aim towards as i raise my own family.  you are a fabulous friend, person, Christian, daughter, sister, fiance and - if you choose one day, will be a fabulous mother.  in short - i love you. thank you for being my friend.

Simple.  Genuine.  Just the way God's love is.  How will you show honor God's love?  How will you perpetuate the love sweet Ethan embodied?  It's far easier than people make it out to be.  Why not try it?  And you can keep eating your chocolate too.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I fear...

I flipped the ricotta cheese over to see the expiration date.  Right there in the market my breath caught.  May 2013.

May.  May.  May?  How is that possible?  How am I approaching the anniversary of my water breaking?  Of my hospitalization.  Of my mother's day spent in room CWN854.  Of Ethan's birthday.  Of my sepsis & complicated c-section.  Of that terrifying night Dr. Van Marter told us our son would likely die and my moaning that followed.  Of Ethan's miraculous recovery.  Of Ethan's sepsis, 3 pneumothoraxes, and devastating brain bleed.  Of the come to Jesus conversation at that conference table with the doctors.  Of holding my sweet boy as he returned to our maker.  How?  How?  How?  

Tears well as I write this.  As I contemplate this.  Another bittersweet moment of this grief & healing process.  

How far away is this all?  Just 3 months now.  That means it's been 9 months since it all went down.  How?  How have I survived that long with so much pain in my chest?  I'm surprised I haven't drowned in an ocean of my own tears.  How have I numbly moved through the shock?  Felt happy again for the first time.  Experienced genuine joy occasionally.  I don't know how, but it has happened.  Time has moved forward - Thank God - truly, Thank God.  

I am in a different place, a softer place than 9 months ago.  I reread that sentence and want to take it back.  I am still as fucked up by all of it - and I am pretty sure big chunks of me will remain that way. And I am OK with that.  I guess.  Yes, I am - largely.  My grief is disjointed, confusing, exhausting, beautiful, terrifying and more.  That's why this journal is all over the place.  I write as I experience it - usually.

I fear May.  I fear that I will forever be jealous of people who birth healthy baby boys in May.  Fear that I will be too sad on May 19th to celebrate my son's first birthday.  Fear that if I plan that informal cookout on that day, as I had planned, with close family/friends that I will wake up that morning and want to cancel it.  Or that I will want to run away into the woods instead of sing him happy birthday.  Well, I am pretty sure I will sing him happy birthday - I just might sob through it.

I fear my husband's birthday, May 9th, will always be tainted.  That was the day Josh & the kids became sick with a terrible virus, that I then caught on the morning of May 10th - and 12 hours later my water broke.  I want to celebrate Josh's birthday - though know it will, for now at least, trigger thoughts of the tragedy that followed.  (This post is already disjointed so here's another thought - my good friend, via email, delivered her only child, sweet Jack, stillborn on her own birthday last May.  Sweet, beautiful, full-term Jack.  How about that for shitty?  That for being inescapable?  Another reason I fear May - for her and my 3 other friends' whose babies died last May.  Babies just shouldn't die.  Life becomes impossible when they do.)

I fear Mother's Day.  In and of itself that is a trigger for my grief, right?  Well, let's just add that it occurs in May - and last Mother's Day I gloriously (I am not being facetious) spent it on my left side bedridden in the hospital - 7 days before Ethan was born.

I fear May 23rd, 5:55pm - Time of Death.  Will I stare at the clock that day?  Likely.  Do I fear it?  Partly.  Partly not.  And both of those thoughts scare me.  It's impossible - this grieving business.  A full time job - whose tiring waves lap away at me.

I fear May 24th, 2013.  Being more than a year away from Ethan's life.  What's that going to be like?  More of the same, probably.  Shitty days/hours/moments.  Some good times thrown in too, with lots (hopefully) of decent days as well.

When I began this post I titled it "Already?" in reference to May approaching.  It morphed into what looms ahead for me with May.  So I changed the title.  I fear a lot.  Though not really.  For I know, I know, Ethan and Jesus walk with me.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


I numbly, yet gingerly, eased myself up into Josh's SUV that night.  Breathing my first fresh air in 2 weeks.  It was cold out for the end of May in Boston.  Yet the cool air only registered in a far off part of my brain.  As my discomfort from the c-section did.  Somehow my bags and belongings were loaded into the back of our car.  Either by Josh or the kind valet who had been notified of what happened just 1 hour ago.

I was sitting in the front seat this time, with no baby in the car to soothe and stare at on the ride home from the hospital that time.  A blue box of Ethan's things lay on my lap.  That's all we will ever have of him.

Josh started the car and the radio came on.  I hadn't heard music for 2 weeks.  That overplayed Maroon 5 song Payphone.  It's ingrained in my mind.

That song played all summer of 2012.  And I cried often when it came over the radio.  Occasionally I didn't.  But the sadness always accompanied that song.  Lyrically it is about a relationship - yet parts of it apply to grief.

                          If happy ever after did exist.
                          I would still be holding you like this.
The other day Payphone came on the radio again.  This time a smile.  That's right.  A slight smile.  Yes, I was brought right back to that tragic night.  But not immediately to the tragedy.  But to the beauty of Ethan.  To my son and the one time I held him.

Ethan, draw me into your beauty.  Allow your beauty to overshadow the tragedy of your death.  Your life is bigger than your death.  Help me to feel that as May approaches.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Am I starting to forget?

I've never really grieved before.  Honestly.

Sure, I've had family members die and those have been sad.  But I have watched my mother grieve her parents, watched my father grieve his best friend.  Watched my parents grieve their nephew (I was quite young when he died).  But I didn't have the deep tears myself.  Maybe because most of those who I had lost had lived a long, good life.  More likely because those I lost were not intimately close to me.

So with Ethan's death, it is quite different.  On both accounts.  He didn't get a chance to live much at all.  Never went outside.  Never felt the sun on his skin.  Never...never...never.  And on top of it he is my son, he is one of the four people I was supposed to keep safe.  So I grieve.  I grieve deeply.

My best friends' premature twin babies continue to do well - thank God.  And with every photo I see of them holding their babies in kangaroo care it stirs things up for me.  The other day I was jealous.  Happy for them and their blessings, and devastated for me and my family.  In attempt to help myself feel close to Ethan I looked at his pictures.

It's been 8 months ago now.  He held Josh's finger in a few of them.  That little hand holding his father's strong finger.  I wondered if he ever held my finger?  I can't remember.  I'm starting to forget some of the details of those four days.  It breaks my heart that I can't remember whether or not I ever felt his hand wrap around my finger.  I really can't remember.  Isn't that so sad?  But it's true.

Is this part of grief?  I know it is.  The distance offering moments of peace, yet at what expense?  Will a day come when I struggle to picture my sweet son's face from memory?  I hope not.  Yet possible.