Sunday, October 28, 2012

Birthday Recap

A’s first birthday was last week. Here are some reflections of A’s birthday and the last week of anniversaries. I ended up calling in to work the day before A’s birthday. This was the date last year that we found out he had died.  After being induced that night, A was born late the next morning. Again the flashbacks tormented me and I cried much of the day but it was actually therapeutic. I was relieved to have extra time and space to rock his snowsuit and urn; to sit in the nursery; to face all of the brutal reminders that I actively ignore each day in order to function. I was relieved to be able to fall apart again, even for a short while.

On his actual birthday we laid low and stayed in. E worked but came home for an early lunch. We were together when the clock struck A’s birth time. I spent more time journaling, crying, reading books to A (and Dragon) and rocking in the nursery sobbing. E did not have anything particular that he wanted or needed to do to commemorate the day. In all honesty, I think he was just focused on surviving it himself.

We had previously sent out memorial cards (made from a customizable birth announcement). On the front was his name, three photos and A’s birth stats. On the backside was a brief message from E and I asking that folks join us in remembering our son and to honor his life by performing an act of kindness in A’s name – even an anonymous one. We feel that this spreads the positive impact of his brief life and ensures his spirit lives on. I got much good feedback from our family and friends about the card and the sentiment. Our OB provider even asked if they could hang the card on the wall with all the other (living) birth announcements. I tearfully consented.

For our own act of kindness we are donating a bunch of household goods to a local immigrant assistance organization. I would still like to plant a tree for A. Something that turns brilliantly vibrant this time of year. The hurdle is deciding where to plant it. I don’t want to put in our yard because we will likely outgrow this house in the next few years and I want to be able to visit A’s tree for the rest of my life and have it accessible to his siblings and others for many years. Perhaps one of the local parks or historical sites. One friend even suggested that when we do plant the tree, E and I each write A a letter and bury them with the roots time-capsule-style. I like that.

Additionally, I have started to organize a little memorial for the house. Ever since we brought A’s ashes home he typically hangs out in the bassinet in our bedroom. Obviously we will have to put baby Dragon in the bassinet (assuming all goes well). Besides I have some lovely mementos that I’ve been meaning to display. I’m thinking either the mantle or perhaps a shelf in our room where I can hang the glass locket with his hair, a charm with his name, a photo or two of our sweet boy and of course, his urn.

A few days after A’s actual birthday I noticed a definite shift emotionally. Not that I wasn’t excited about this new pregnancy before, but it feels more tangible now, the excitement more palpable. I am all of a sudden inspired to start taking care of things in anticipation of baby Dragon’s arrival. Mixed in is the motivation to take care of this A memorial project.

It’s almost as if my anguish, dread and resistance leading up to his birthday was all-consuming and now that it is over, space and emotional resources have opened up. I don’t know but it is a nice surprise. A little brightness after a very dark previous month.

The evening of A’s birthday, E and I were on the couch watching the tube and decided it was time to hit the hay. He clicked off the TV and we embraced. He whispered, “We made it through the day.” I half-smiled and replied, “We made it through the year.” It’s still crazy to think it’s been a whole year.

I am still struggling to get back on my feet and Halloween is going to be another major setback. In all fairness, the lead up to A’s birthday was intensely emotional for weeks prior to the actual event. Given the weeks of building to the apex, I imagine it will take a little while to recover. I am trying to be patient with that. I am also holding onto how therapeutic it felt to grieve heavily again. I plan to continue to make time to sit with him, sit with my feelings and face my reality.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A’s First Birthday

I am still stumbling after A’s first birthday earlier this week. Once I get my footing back, I’ll have more to say. In the mean time, here is the letter I wrote to my sweet boy on his birthday. It’s disjointed because it was written spontaneously as the sentiments came to me.

     Happy first birthday My Love. You’d be such a big boy by now. Daddy and I would shake our heads in disbelief while we marveled at how much you’ve grown and how each day we love you more than the last.

     I think we would have a low-key day. I’d bake you a mini-cake. After dinner we’d set that cake on your highchair tray. You’d eye it with curiosity a bit unsure of what it is or what to do with it. Tentatively you’d poke at it with your chubby index finger and eventually dive right in pressing fistfuls to your face. Cake and icing is smeared everywhere. You’re an absolute mess! And Daddy captured it all on video. (Definitely a bath night!)

     Daddy would wait until you were in your crib, down for the night, then he’d pull me close, kiss my forehead and we’d recount your birth story while we expressed our awe and gratitude at your existence and our little family of three.

     A, today the sun I shining brightly, the fall foliage is peaking and it is going to be unseasonably warm. It is an absolutely beautiful, perfect day to be born.

     Twelve months is a sliver of a lifetime but in this past year we would have learned so much about you (and ourselves).

     I want to know what your laugh sounds like.

     I want to know what your favorite foods are.

     I want to know where your tickle spots are.

     I want to know if you like to swim and splash in the water.

     I want to know your personality.

     I want to know your preferred sleep position.

     I want to know if you’d still be nursing (even just at bedtime).

     I want to know what silly face, or voice, or behavior of Daddy’s slays you every time.

     I honestly think I miss you even more now but I know too, that as time has passed my love has also grown. I mean it when I say Daddy and I love you more than words can express.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An Anniversary

This past week was the anniversary of our due date with A. As you know, I’ve had an increasingly difficult time as his first birthday approaches, but I hadn’t expected the due date anniversary to be so harrowing.

I went to work like normal but immediately I found myself fighting back tears. All morning my mind kept revisiting that day last year – how coworkers who had bet on my delivering that day in the Baby Pool ribbed me during the day, how after work E accompanied me to our regularly scheduled weekly appointment, how everything checked out perfectly, how we sat just the two (three) of us while doing the non-stress test, how E was intrigued by the monitor and printout, how the paper in the printer ran out but the office didn’t have any more of the special paper in stock, how the midwife looked at the abbreviated printout and explained the graph and how it depicted the desired number of fetal heart accelerations and recoveries, how we discussed with her our desire to wait until labor started naturally emphasizing our faith in my body and the baby to know when the time was right, how I was a little disappointed I didn’t have the energy to go out for dinner that night – I wanted to have a due-date date.

How on that very day exactly one year ago we heard our son’s heart beating for the very last time.

Blinking back tears I tried to focus on my computer screen and work assignments. It was futile. My brain (and whole being) was too dialed-in to my child and my maternal responsibility. Like a repeating movie reel it played the events of the due date and the following day then the next when we finally went out for what we believed was our final nice meal out for a long time, then the following morning when we sat through a long Happiest Baby on the Block class where I felt him moving around inside me, how I was starving and thus cranky by the time the class ended, how we drove to the store to pick up special swaddling blankets, how the next morning I didn’t feel his usual pre-dawn activity but shrugged it off and got busy with final baby preparations, how we took a belly picture which I emailed to family and friends along with photos of the finished nursery, hours later I remarked to E that I hadn’t felt the baby as much as usual and then all that happened next

By noon my chest was tight, my head hurt and I couldn’t focus on work at all. I tried releasing some tears first in the bathroom stall and then in a back abandoned office, but it wasn’t enough to ease the tension. I toyed with the idea of leaving and going home because that’s all I wanted; I just wanted the security and privacy of my home to cry at will.

Ironically, or perhaps not, I am feeling very similar to how I did last fall shortly after A was born. That familiar atmosphere where I don’t want to leave the house, I don’t want to cook, I don’t want to do anything but distract myself enough to get through the day until I can go back to bed and tick off another day on the calendar. Last year at this time I had the world’s permission as a newly bereaved mother to shutter myself in. I had 6-weeks of maternity leave to hibernate. Now I do not have that luxury but it is exactly what I am craving.

A’s actual birthday is in a few days and I have been bracing for that. But the due date really caught me off guard. You’d think after 12 full months of living in Griefland I would learn to expect the unexpected. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn is All Around

Autumn is here in all its glory. The air is crisp. The foliage is changing. Chestnuts litter the ground. It is splendid and it hurts so bad.

Fall is A’s season. We were delighted to have a due date in October because both E and I claim autumn as our favorite season. It is a beautiful time of year to be born.

Each day I awake and am bombarded with fall. It surrounds me – the cool air as I climb out of bed, the view from the windows. This makes it impossible to focus on anything else. My mind keeps jumping back to this time last year. Our excitement and anticipation were building. The final preparations were being ticked off the list. I wished desperately that baby would stay put until after the Happiest Baby on the Block class, which was scheduled for 3 days after the due date. Foolish me didn’t realize it was while sitting in that stupid class that I would feel my son moving for the last time.

The me standing on this side looking back at pre-calamity me cannot believe my naivety. I shake my head in disbelief and pity. Worried about attending a parenting class? Terrified of having an unplanned c-section? Concerned about managing the forthcoming onslaught of visitors to our house to meet our firstborn? Anxious that if baby was born too close to Halloween would it mar the child’s sense of identity by condemning it costume-themed birthday parties for the rest of it’s childhood? How effing shallow. How insignificant. How utterly na├»ve.

And so, like a film reel, these last blissful, ignorant weeks replay in my head. Naturally, I cannot pause the screen when the happiness is shattered. Next come the scenes of devastation and the fallout. Over and over I relive the events of last October in my mind. It is effing torture. But I cannot help it. Autumn surrounds me. It is his season. Each vibrant tree I pass stabs at my heart.

The panic I felt with A’s approaching first birthday has dissipated. Now I can sense a slow tightening around me neck, a gradual suffocating sensation. After several decent weeks of togetherness and functionality the heavy transparent net of languidness and depression is settling down on top of me. I do not want to do anything – not fun stuff, not even eat ice cream. I just want to curl up and wait out the day. From my tenure here in Griefland I know it is futile to fight such against such a force. So I am giving myself over to the lethargy and apathy. Trying not to judge how I feel but accept that it with time it will pass and the heaviness will lighten once again.