Friday, November 30, 2007

Where I sit

A few weeks ago, my sweet husband and I went to a conference in St Louis because we run a Share support group and it was part of our training.
I loved the conference. It was amazing to see how well developed the organization is in the midwest and how many committed health care providers were there.
There was this one really thought provoking discussion, which I keep thinking about.
Here goes.
The session was called complicated grief. My understanding was that it was supposed to try to explain and justify why grieving over a baby is more complicated than mourning other deaths. The woman had this metaphor that she kept using over and over again. I don't even know if metaphor is the right word for what she was using. It was that, when you lose a baby, you move from the mundane, to the divine.
I think my first problem was that to me, divine seemed religious, and I am not. Since the conference was in the midwest and I had already encountered many people with strong religious beliefs, I think I felt a little ruffled just because I was suspicious that god and heaven were being drawn into this.
On the other hand, I do feel that I was a little mundane before this loss. I do feel a little like I sit on a perch now, looking down on the world, with all these other people walking around doing their Christmas shopping and thinking that they are immune to misfortune.

So I think I will consult the dictionary and think about this some more.
Divine: 1. of, like, or from God; holy 2. devoted to God; religious 3. supremely great; good
Mundane: 1. of the world, worldly 2. commonplace, ordinary, etc.

Yeah, I thought so. This is why I couldn't really get truly into her talk, even though I did agree with her.

I did not come into my knowledge by privilege, but by default. But my world has been rocked and it looks different to me now. Different from where I stood before, and different from other people I am friends with. I just know this. Here's why the divine thing doesn't work for me, besides the fact that it's religious and I don't care for that. Because it implies that I would be better than them. While I do feel that I do have better appreciation for things and maybe do have a better life because things don't ruffle me so much, I don't think I am better. It's just where I stand. It's how I see things. It's how my brain digests things.

It's funny how the way I see things isn't scary to me, really. It's just how I see them. I will say things like this to G. We are lying in bed, halfway through sleeping, and Aoife starts to scream down the hall. She is almost two. She's supposed to sleep all night long. I mean maybe she isn't, I don't know. But I am ready to sleep all night long. I'm tired. And I think this, "I'm tired." Then my legs swing over the edge of the bed, and my feet hit the floor. It is cold. And I am walking around the bed, and I say to G, "I'm not going to be proud of myself if she dies in a car accident tomorrow and I got her sleeping through the night before it happened". And then I keep walking past him, as if I had just told him I was getting a glass of water, and I nurse her a little, and rock her in the chair, and maybe wrap her in a blanket and put her back in her bed or maybe bring her back down to my bed. Saying that didn't make me scared that she would die in a car accident. Many people would never even say something like that about their child. They would feel a sense of foreboding by even THINKING about it.
But not me. Because my body knows that you don't necessarily get your children forever, and so whatever time you do get with them, is what you get. I make decisions knowing that I must live with them no matter what happens. But this doesn't seem to carry weight! It's just the way I think. It doesn't make every decision a huge one. It just makes me do what is right in my heart, every time. I always follow my heart.

When Charlotte died the thing that surprised me most, even more than how much my body hurt from the pain of her being gone, was how absolutely biological it was for me to mother her. I felt like an animal. If she had been buried I know I would have lain on the ground and clawed at it to bring her back up to me. My body needed her so desparately. I would think of her months later and could feel milk rush in and fill me. I couldn't breathe for the thought of not having her.
It has made me trust myself completely with Liam and Aoife, and not take much else into account (except maybe their super-terrific dad)

Thanks Charlotte. You make me a better mama.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beating hearts

I can't help it. I am just steeped in gratefulness. I sometimes think my brain is tricking itself because I still can't believe how good things have become and yet I can still feel everything that came before.
Liam likes it when I lie with him in bed a little. I don't let him fall asleep with me every night. But I can't ever say no if he asks me to cuddle. He's so little in the bed, and he is so warm, and his little, fair face is so beautiful. Of course I get into his bed.
And I can feel his heart beat. It beats against my hand while I lie there.
The same thing happens when the kids are running around before bed. We call this crazy time. As the kids climb the stairs for bed, Aoife starts to shriek and yell for "cazy tiyemm!" Then they frantically disrobe and run down to Liam's bedroom. Aoife is so cute, her tiny, little 20 pound frame running at top speed down our long, wide-pine floored upstairs hall. She has tiny sacrum dimples and her hips sway as she runs. Then they repeatedly faceplant on the "bottom bunk" of Liam's bed (a mattress on the floor under his loft bed) and jump off. Aoife actually steps off, being unable to jump, and then shouts, "I dumped!" It is adorable. And when I scoop her up to take her to the bath, I can feel it. Her tiny heart pounds against my chest. I can feel it.
Every day I can hear the silence of the monitor on my belly when we walked into that little room to "make sure everything was okay". I had been laboring at home, but I hadn't felt the baby move. Everything was not okay, it turned out. Judie put the monitor on my belly and looked for the heartbeat, but we didn't hear a thing.
This was the thing that made me suddenly panic, like something was wrong. She said this:
"Where do they usually get a heartbeat on this kid?"
And then she slid the monitor across my belly.
I couldn't speak, to tell her that where they always found the heartbeat on my kid was just where she had been.
That would be disloyal to my child who could not be anything but okay.
She wasn't.
If only my water hadn't broken first. Don't they say that this stereotype of going into labor isn't that common anyway? But when my water broke and Charlotte lost her cushion, the cord that had been doubled back under her arm got squished. And she faded away.
I guess that was the end of me in some ways too.
I can still feel the rawness and my ragged flesh and my empty, pouchy belly, and my huge, hard swollen breasts.
Yet every day I am so happy with my two new gift children. I couldn't ever have them if I had Charlotte.
I want all three of them.