Perspective

First Memory

The walls are still. Colored with betrayal in the shades of a presumed future that never happened. The air is even still. Not wanting to choose north, or south, or even west or east in direction. Whether the sun is up, we don’t know because the room faces east but evidence that the sun was up is left in measures of heat that won’t leave the room. At least the darkness can tell us it’s not morning but sometime after noon, yet the stars cannot be seen. Being in the middle of summer, the days are long. Hot and exhausting. Usually sweat soaks your forehead, seeping into your eyes which stings as tears escape the corners of your eyes, and the heat is uncomfortable, making you ravenous with desire to strip your clothing in eagerness to cool the body down, but to even move, your arms feel like lead and refuse to follow your commands.

Lying down, you hope to gather at least some coolness from spots on your sheets that yet to have been touched by the heat of that day. The moment is precious, but quick as the fabric quickly absorbs your body heat and soon damp. From deep within, your chest struggles with ragged spasms and opens to a sigh that hopes to capture relief in cooler air created from the fan sitting in the window. The only thing that brings relief is anything cool to the touch. Everything else is hot, muggy, and discomforting.

You try to stand up, but the weight of the heat seems to drag you back down so all you really can do is roll over to your back. Your eyes sting from the sweat earlier. In trying to dry them, you open your eyes to see your own palms of your hands, looming over you. Slowly you look them over, swollen, sweaty and turn them palm facing the ceiling to see the puffy blue veins popping out in irregular lines. On your left wrist, through the fuzzy views your eyes can barely provide, you notice the contrast of a white object, a piece of plastic wrapped around your wrist. Squeezing away the stinging of sweat and tears, you open your eyes again with more focus and attempt to see the object closer.

Against the white plastic, you see bold black font with an absolution to it that haunts you. A barcode. You read your date of birth. Your last name never seemed so distant from who are. You read the date 6/31/2010.

Suddenly your brain seizes the image before you. Shocking gasps seemingly from nowhere suffocate your lungs. It’s not the heat making you feel heavy and sweat with tears stinging your eyes. The absolution of the silence surrounding you shatters the fog. The room next door, though you can’t see it, suddenly seems right on top of you. It’s empty. Full of baby things. But empty. The thoughts come like thunder, memories raining down from the blackness in the back of your eyes and the pain in your heart illuminates the moment.

All you can remember and for this moment, is the infant you are holding in the mind’s eye. Still. Silent. Beautiful as if they were just in a deep sleep. Tears stain like ice on your cheeks ever flowing, fast, and furious, a river of life.

A future that never came, and the present moment so painful, it scalds you like iron branding every inch of your skin. This can’t be happening you think. It’s can’t. Babies don’t die.

The body holding you down to the bed is obscure, foreign. You’ve had the same body, skin your entire life yet it doesn’t feel right. It has violated you, betrayed you. The grief lies to you, claiming the heat is torturing you. Empty arms feel heavier than the ones holding new life.

Trying to move, there is no connection between your head and your limbs. Disassociated and almost cadaverous, your body has become this useless suit of armor that your soul is caged within. The ecstasy of the pain should incinerate the flesh and yet it somehow holds all together. Slowing you down, preventing an escape from hell, from those sheets that once made you feel safe, and at home. Moving your hands to your eyes to wipe away the sudden tears is a feat of movement. Another deep sigh gives your torso a breathe of life to twist and putting your leaden arms down supported by your hands, you sit up.

Food. You need food. Deep guttural growls find their way out and your brain signals “hunger.” What? Right. You are hungry. But that means leaving the sheets, the bed, the house, the empty room. That means seeing people. They will see your stomach. Nothing there. That means no crying, that means acting like nothing happened. Go grocery shopping when your entire world collapsed into an extreme vacuum of a collapsing star. Literally, nothing left. Except the needs of your human body. Fine. Secondary memory and movement carry your body from the closet where your wallet and car keys hang, down the stairs, and somehow your fingers punch the code to the garage number (even though if someone had asked you, there was no way you could rehearse it back.. who gives a fuck?), and behind the wheel.

IN all that, all you can feel is serration between each breathe in waves of choking and uneven breathing, anxiety, and hesitation. I don’t want to do this. Your stomach answers back, you have to. Backing out, again, the brain takes over and magically you appear at the grocery store. Not the prominent one in town that everyone goes to. And the one you rarely go to because it was too expensive. Maybe you’ll see less people you know.

Getting out of the car, it feels like you are on a boat in the middle of the ocean. The concrete beneath your feet seems to be weaving, giving your knees the knock-knee effect. Dizzy from anxiety, fear, and lack of air because your lungs are seizing up in spasms… you manage to not get hit by a car, drag yourself foot by foot.

A cart by the door saves you. You cling onto it for dear life, a support for the body that you are trying to mobilize. Tears threaten your vision and you squeeze the liquid out in attempt to not lonely look normal but so you don’t achieve some Olympic style throw down because you tripped due to poor vision. Vanity never seems to leave.

Everything just glows in colors, shapes. You almost forget what you came for. Right. Food. Whatever.
In a daze with heavy wet eyes, you cling to the cart just following it along the rows of food that solicit no response from you. You keep your eyes down, to avoid any familiar face. It doesn’t work. Recognition somehow still kicks in and you see a face that you know.

And what’s even worse, is it’s a woman carrying a baby in her carrier. Her face carries a look of “oh crap.. “. She knows. Tears burn your cheeks, your body shakes so hard you for a second wonder how you are still standing. She turns red, eyes becoming wet and she doesn’t really reach out for you, but you are shaking, covering your mouth, tears coming faster than your breathes and choking sobs come from deep within. You want to run, you want to hide, it hurts so bad. An awkward hug ensues and she hurries off. You need to finish and leave as fast as you can. The rest of the outing is blacked out. You don’t remember anything else.

Mecca

I started writing the night I came home. After she died. The book was a cheap paperboard book bound together with glue. A cheap pile of paper to try and write instead of throwing up because it was just too much. Everything hurt.

I am still writing today. It’s not a graceful novel with eloquent plots, scenes, and well-rounded characters that are built to engage you as a reader. It’s a hodge podge of human pain, lessons, mistakes, triumphs, failures; it’s life.

I hope to still be writing the day I rise to my death. The experience of child loss bears great grief. Beyond the measure of time, of intellect, and of ability to heal. There is no healing. There is only growing and there is only living.

Because if we become silent, the grief overcomes.

Five Years

I’m 34. I’ve lived a span of five years six times. My seventh, my mecca.

It is mine. It belongs to no one, but me. Anyone can say anything, or do anything to steer, influence, or shape because it is too ugly to accept or perhaps dirty in the eyes of God. God knows my pain. He lost his Son too.

It is ugly, beautiful, and real. I cannot believe I was born to watch one of my children die. I have to remember even in this moment, that life is not about guarantees and all things perfect. It is about the reality of being human, of loss, betrayal, and it’s about sin and being lost.

It is sacred. All that is sacred is not always acceptable to others because it is fearful, scary, full of taboo subjects and emotions or topics that make others face their own demons, faults, and discriminations.

The Seventh

Five years. Five birthdays. 1824 bedtimes kisses. 1924 hugs. 5475 bedtime stories. And those numbers just get bigger and bigger. Like a shadow of loss that grows as the sun sets on my life. But as the shadows grow long in the sunset, we turn to watch the sunset as the shadow grows behind us.

What do I get to do this year for myself?? To celebrate her fifth birthday, to celebrate that I am still standing.. I am getting a memorial tattoo. I cannot tell you how freaking excited I am to wear, in public, ALL THE TIME, a tattoo for my daughter. I think of her always, but now, she will remind me always of who I am, what her legacy means to me, and the gift of the life I have. The placement is where I held her. I wish I could have burned into my arm that night every trace of those moments I had with her.

It’s taken five years but I stand only a month away from putting ink into my skin that will forever mark me. Mark my loss. Mark my life. Five years.

My seventh. My beginning. It only took seven cycles. I look forward to turning 35. To looking back with a future in my mind for the first time, in a long time.

It feels good to be writing again. Back to my blog! I’ll post pictures of my fresh ink in May!

Endless

Does the feeling of normal ever come back? Or the pendulum of emotion ever calm down after your baby dies? Whenever the drama of every day life seems to calm down, I feel somehow like this is it, this is my normal, I’m going to be okay and then one slight of the hand or trick of fate and things seem to be screwy again, I feel like I’m falling down that same rabbit hole of loss of control, bad luck, and all the garbage that comes with loss and grief.

I don’t want to call it garbage though, but it sure feels like it sometimes. Grieving is exhausting and trying to just hold onto normal moments is even more so when you are trying to carry all that at once. I envy the naive, the settled, and the people that have experienced no more grief or pain than a loss of a grandparent, a bad parking ticket, or bounced check. Not the death of a baby. Trust me. I wish I could turn myself darn self around to be so happy go lucky as I used to be. I wouldn’t call my other side dark, just emotional. The slightest tilt of gravity that hints towards loss, or lack of choice, sends me into a tizzy. And I hate it.

And it feels endless. Always, forever, and out of control. Why did Ceiliedh have to die and why to have I have only two choices. To handle this well, or handle this badly. If I handle this badly, I am sure to end up in a straight jacket, never to see my rainbows grow up into the most awesome human beings they already are. They are my heroes.

To handle this well, I have to constantly wage battle within myself to bring back my center every time the reminder that we have no control sends my spirit into a vortex of panic and anger. I am so tired of it. Running, and hugging my rainbows, smiling, breathing, are the only things that bring me back to my center. I dare not touch psychotropic medication because I can and do this. I have the strength. It’s just exhausting and annoying.

To handle this well, I have to somehow come out of this accepting her death which if I do, then I’ve accepted loss of control which is very hard to do even right now.

To handle this well, I have to decide to become a heroine. Which is a lot and a daunting weight to carry. I have to become the heroine of my own story so that my daughter in essence, is honored as a heroine because she is no less.

To handle this well, I have to strive to not just stay alive, but to live with love, gratitude for her loss, and look forward to the years without her, so I can enjoy those same years with my rainbows.

To handle this well, I have to do so many things, so my dear mother, father, brother, husband, children, it will take me a very long time to handle this well. I hope you are patient, kind. I hope you understand, and still love me because the mother and monster within me are waging a war and I am slowly, desperately, beautifully, winning. Keep smiling for me, hugging me, and pushing me to be the better mother, daughter, wife, and one day grandmother. If I can die in old age, I have won my war and died a heroine so my daughter’s life was not in vain.

It’s endless because it’s a lifetime. A lifetime of handling it well.

Fallible

Tonight my oldest on earth asked me if I would protect her from scary dinosaurs and monsters. I of course replied, yes, always. While softly stroking her wild and disheveled hair that reminded of the early events today (three year old birthday parties are no laughing matter!), I suddenly realized I couldn’t be there or do that for Ceiliedh. I am constantly amazed by the power of her death and the ripples it sends through me on such unexpected moments. Maybe because I couldn’t protect her, the trauma is so great. I failed my job as a parent and have to accept that failure and carry it for the rest of my life.

At least when you lose your battle with cancer you die; you die in honor. I lost my battle and I have to live with it.

Talk about a heavy scarlet letter.

I know people close to me cannot figure out why I can’t move on. It’s these exact ripples that just arise, these tidal waves that threaten to pull me into the sea of either guilt, sadness, or wonderment. I have to force myself to stare back at the love looking at me, and throw my anchor deep in their eyes, or their smile. And it holds me fast, pulling me away from that swirling vortex back to the depths of anguish and despair.

I don’t want it like this forever, but if it is going to continue with these ripples, I have to learn do more than just surf them. I have to become them. I cannot count on Skye and Zeb to be my anchors. My daily running is a strong possibility but so is chocolate and hot baths. Tequila every now and then in a watered down margarita is amazing. Going numb certainly is the closest thing to feeling the way I did before Ceiliedh died. I am a powerhouse of human emotion after going through that.

Monsters, scary things that go bump in the night, bad things that happen in this world. I couldn’t stop it when it consumed my daughter, unwittingly did I know it was slowly taking over her. She was fighting it, I know it in my heart. Letting her go, I finally was able to fight the wrong, and when I did, I gave her back knowing I would never, ever, in this physical form, this life, see her, smell her, hold her, rock her, ever. Ever. Again.

Anytime one of my rainbows feels pain, is devastated; the smallest measurement of me in that most tender place that holds my grief, Iwonders how bad of a parent I am, if I couldn’t even avoid death who swiftly took my daughter before I could even place my move. It is a constant practice of feeling the pain, reminding myself they will be okay, and knowing this life is a long, long road, but for these two precious babes, for my running shoes, sunrises, smiles, laughter, it will get better, it will be amazing.

Yes, I will always carry the mortality of my existence, and the mortality of my children. Knowing this fragility makes life harder to live, and it is so much easier to lose your grip on the moment and all that you have in that moment. That is why running is so important to me. It is another few minutes of really feeling alive, immortal, and strong. It refuels my strength to carry on until the next time I can recharge.

And when I cannot run, I start to feel weak, tired, and overcome by all the demands in this world, including my emotional ones.  In running, it’s the one place I don’t feel fallible.

Circles

I recently walked a labyrinth over the Easter holiday, observing Lent for the first time in my life. I identify with Jesus as a human in his experience and this year, more than ever, I resonated with his walk. He was 33 when he died on the cross. I am 33 this year.

My purpose to walk the labyrinth was to clear my mind so I could focus on how I could help others with pregnancy and infant loss. That has been my passion since Ceiliedh died. I want to save families from the complicated grieving I was dealt. I lept all over the map, in my mind while walking, on different ideas, possibilities. Should I be a nurse? A doctor? What do I do?

In the end, I wanted to become a doctor. Such a big and noble quest.

That didn’t pan out. Then I considered running my own nonprofit and changing the world. That wasn’t it either.

I wasn’t listening to the universe divine. My ego was overinflated by the sensual power of change.

Instead, I’m stuck retracing my circles, my labyrinth of this long, never ending journey of healing. I had tried to just simply forget and leave behind the alcoholism that has taken away my white picket fence fairytale. My husband consistently buys himself a six pack of beer, 16 oz. each, and with great skill puts them down all before he falls asleep. Though he usually is up until midnight, even on work nights.

I don’t put this out there to scorn him. That is my last intent. I just need to be honest, brutally honest, if I am going to heal. He is an outstanding mountaineer, volunteers him time with a local nonprofit to help tutor others in English, and has the greatest sense of humor that could win over the Queen… maybe. Our marriage was a 12 out of 10 before Ceiliedh died.

My circles brought me back from the reverie and day dream of that change I want to create, to the fact that I haven’t left the bitter tracks of substance abuse that occurs in my life. My husband. If he drinks, I suffer. He doesn’t see it that way though and refuses to see it’s a problem.

I’ve longed to escape and used my cravings to help other bereaved families; to day dream and escape my reality.

Finally, being told I was suffering from “spoiled bitchius” and being yelled at the following night, including obscenities, in front of my precious rainbows, did it for me. He wasn’t just yelling, it was demonic. It was obvious the traces of alcohol were speaking. Not my precious husband whom I so loved. I woke up. Snapped out of my hope for reconciliation, recovery from substance abuse, triumph for my marriage.

80 percent of marriages fail after a baby dies. Damn. I didn’t want to be that 20 percent. But I will take that 80 percent, to avoid becoming that one in four who experiences violence.

I circled back to being 20 again, crying in front of mom. Admitting my mistakes, and realizing I am starting from square one. But this time, she had no comfort to offer, no hug to reassure me. She stood up, sat down at her desk and stated that we should get back to work.

I am really alone. No fault against her, and no harsh feelings. Just shock.

When I close my eyes, I picture Skye and Zeb and my tears are hot on my cheeks. I can do this. I don’t know what my life holds now. Not a clue. But those smiles, laughs, they are my future and with those two small futures, my life can start afresh. Truly new, even with my loss a distant four years away, it will be new, raw, and all because I am trying to find that road to recovery, which starts with leaving behind the love of my life because inside of him, alcohol has a hold on him and it is his mistress. His love for it, is greater than of our marriage, of me, and above all, his children.

I feel like a pioneer, freaked out of my mind, heart racing, my mind swirling. I guess I will need to run more often, meditate longer, and finally take that leap of faith with the universe divine that I will be okay.

I am still running my labyrinth. Back and forth, feeling like I am back in the same place over and over, but not truly, just a few inches over each time moving in, and then out again. Just keep moving. Keep breathing. Keep smiling. I’ll get there.

Bittersweet

Tonight is the eve of my first rainbows’ third birthday. Three years ago, at midnight, my contractions began and my journey from the moment I let C go was coming into another chapter. I spent extra minutes cuddling with Skye tonight. My no-so-two-anymore toddler. They grow so fast.

I found myself falling into deep gratitude, tears collecting at the corners of my tired eyes. Mothers who have not lost their babies, have no clue the depth of what they hold dear and what they could lose so quickly. That is a gift that bereaved parents do take away after death. That our children are precious, fragile, but strong, and spirited. They are the essence of our life.

A quick thought clouded my gratitude for only a minute. Ceiliedh didn’t get this. She didn’t get to spend her last night as a two year old prancing around in her blue dress, the wind whipping her hair. I didn’t get to hear her peals of laughter as she played with the foam alphabet letters while I washed her hair in the bathtub.

But I did with Skye. I am so grateful. My heart is heaving with the power of what bittersweet means to me. There is the sweet honey of watching my rainbows grow up, with the bitter shadow cast of the one I don’t get to. Birthdays are a human reminder of what is lost, what is silent, and how those two things bring a brightness and stark contrast of gratitude for what we do have, and what consumes our world.

If ever someone feels like I talk too much of Ceiliedh, they must remember, her death took a bit of my soul. A big chunk of me died inside; a part of my heart that I cannot get back nor re-grow or replace. Of course I will talk about her. If I don’t, I will die wholly and without the chance to heal and celebrate.

If I don’t talk about her, even tonight, on Skye’s birthday, I dishonor her. I dishonor the strength it has taken to get here. And the courage it took to bring Skye to where she is today. It’s only because I lost C.

On this eve, in three hours, three years ago, I let go of all the world. Even my pain that I had carried for 14 months. And nine hours later, at 9:49 am. I welcomed my first living, breathing, healthy child. It is odd, holding a baby that moves after holding a baby that is still. You don’t have that reaction a naïve mother has. Instead, you wonder, are they really alive? And when you do come to grips with reality, you are shaken to your core because all that you have known, as a mother of a child who died, is again stripped away and a new dawn approaches.

The dawn of crying, movement, looking, interaction. The dawn of life. Just beyond words. I cannot describe my great joy. Only I can tell you this: Three years ago, was the greatest day of my life because I triumphed, prevailed, came back from the dead. Skye brought me back, taught me how to believe again, to smile, laugh, and tonight, she’s teaching me what loss has brought in my world.

It’s bittersweet.   Happy Birthday my sweet Skyebug. You will never understand or grasp the depth of my love for you, and how entangled your birth is in my own rebirth and revival into this world. I love you to the moon, stars, infinity and beyond.

Reverie

With understanding that without my loss, I would be without my rainbows. This is by far the largest lesson I am trying to consume, and it isn’t without its challenges. This is, after all, a story about loss and the love that followed. It is my only hope that I can arrive at Ceiliedh’s fifth birthday with some sort of heavy peace in my heart, knowing she is proud of me and is proud that she brought to my loving arms, my rainbows. She knew I had the heart of a lioness, the spirit of a phoenix, and the mind of a fighter. She invokes my creativity, my longing for community, love, and openness.

I may see ugliness when I face the mirror, but when I turn away from the false image shaped by social conditioning, I can see, feel, breathe the beauty that is slowly breaking through the char and ash of grief-mistakes, and slowly it shines through, sliver by sliver. It’s frightening, seductive, and elusive. If I try to find it, it hides because it is repelled by the ego. If I run from it, I die within. But if I accept it, the mask can fall and the spirit rise.

Running; the pain and sweat encourage the reverie of my strength, spirit bound by the roar of survival.

Breathing; a testament that death will not make me fall beyond the worthiness of my dead child’s memory.

Laughing; the reminder that death is not the end.

Hugging; I am human.

Sharing; I know.

Love: It will be okay.

We are so damn lucky, even in the throes of the deepest of anguish, to be alive. The depth of being alive is tested by how far the spirit is willing to go, to do what is necessary, for the reverie of love. Death brought love, life, and a new journey. What was accepted as an end, was really a new beginning and four years it has taken to recognize this. I will not go onward without her memory, but I will without the hate, the anger, the despair. The shackles of depression.

She died and I lived. And in her light and love, with two rainbows, they lead my heart, challenge my spirit, and remind me that all in this world is fleeting, full of anxiety of the unknown, of death. What we fear most, as Harry once said, is what we should speak loudest of. I no longer fear death.