Friday, July 4, 2008

Glow In the Woods 6x6

Here's a little assignment from Glow In the Woods, my favorite babylost site of all...
You can check out other's answers if you go here.

1 How would you describe your relationship to fear before and after the loss of your baby?
Before Charlotte died, fear was just something I did symbolically: I thought about things that were scary to me, but the feeling behind it was empty, because I didn't know what I was afraid of. I would think, "What if this baby died?" and at the time, it would feel scary... but I didn't know that awful, crippling grief. Fear now? It's avoidance, and the complete inability to think about the things that might happen, that do make me afraid. It is so intentional: I think about something that is truly terrifying, and in order to maintain peace, and the ability to love today and to rejoice in what's around me, I don't go there. I escape it. Fear to me now, is to terrifying to face, because I know that what you fear might actually happen.

2 Is your lost baby/are your babies present in your life? In what way?
Oh, yes, she is, but also she isn't. I'd like to think she is, and I surround myself constantly with all her "things" and pictures and memorabilia. I speak her name often because I want her to be here. She's made me more conscientious, more in the moment, more loving, caring and responsible, and so in that way, she's here. She has drastically changed the way I parent my living children. She's calmed me down, rooted me, pacified me. But she's actually not here with me, I can't hug her, or watch her play, or kiss her while she sleeps. That part hurts.

3 Tell us about something said or done after your loss that left you feeling nurtured or supported.
Here were my two favorite cards:

Dear Carol,
You did everything right. One could feel the love with which you surrounded that baby. And now, how to survive having to say hello and goodbye in one breath.

Dear Carol,
I am so sorry about Charlotte, and I am sad... (this card went on, but this part struck me)
Love, Gina

There was so much support that felt so precious to me, but the people who spoke her name, who acknowledged her life, what I had done for her, and the struggle I would face helped the most. There was no real opportunity for me to be reassured at that point, so when people said things that were indeed true, such as, "I'm sure the love of your family will help you through this difficult time," that didn't feel as supportive as, "I'm sad." I needed people to miss Charlotte with me, and I needed them to validate the agony of the journey I was facing. That was most supportive.

.4 Tell us about something said or done after your loss that left you feeling marginalized or misunderstood
Something really simple, and said often out of caring and an intention to support: You'll get through this.
No, I will not get through this. My daughter died. I will never leave this behind. Do not try to be helpful by telling me I am strong and will get through this. I don't want to get through this. I want to stay here forever and miss her. Please can't you miss her with me?
There were also a lot of comments (you can have another one to replace her, I know how you feel, my dog died) that really spun me for a loop, but this message of "getting through" as if I would someday get over the death of my first child always made me feel more frustrated and misunderstood. The really stupid comments made me feel like never talking to the person again, whereas the message of strength made me yearn to try to explain myself and my grief, and I never really quite felt as if I could do that effectively.

5 What's taken you a long time to do again? How did it feel, if you have?
It took me three years to drive past the funeral home where we picked up her ashes. It was a horrible, grey, rainy day when we went there. I was out of my body, and out of my mind with grief. We went in the door, and the kind, gentle woman handed us this little white urn that contained our daughter's ashes. She offered condolences, we thanked her, and turned. We walked out the door, cradling the little urn in disbelief, this was what was left of Charlotte. In the car, I opened the envelope. There was the certificate that accompanied her "remains":

Name: Charlotte Reynolds
Cause of Death: Asphyxiation

My head fell into my lap, onto the white marble, and I cried until I ran out of breath, I almost broke from the sobbing. The rain poured down as I imagined my precious little baby, the only child I had, suffocating in my womb while I slept, knowing nothing. We sat in the car for a long while, crying together. I never drove by again.

It was a surprise when I did. Traffic was heavy, and prior to Charlotte's birth, I had often shortcut that way to avoid the center of town. One day, I just did it without thinking. My blinker was on, and I was turning. Liam was in the back, and I was pregnant with Aoife. I drove by, looking curiously at the parking lot, feeling curiously as if it had been someone else who had cried in the parking lot a lifetime ago instead of me.

I still rarely go back.

.6 How would you describe yourself as a partner before, and after?
I don't know how I could describe myself as a partner, except to say that I think Greg and I understand each other better. Having weathered such a crisis and survived rock-solid and fiercely in love, I can't imagine what a world without him would be like.

If you have lost a baby, I would be curious to see what your answers are. If you post them on Glow in the Woods, please comment the link (or your answers) here... or just answer them here in comment form. It's a cool exercise. It is so good for me to think about these things analytically. (again, my online therapy, cheaper and more convenient!)


Meg said...

You describe things so well. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I am thankful for you letting us know what is helpful in a situation like this and what is hurtful. Also, you help me appreciate my own kids so much more.

Tash said...

Your answers are just beautiful, and so heartbreaking -- thank you so much for taking the time to answer these.

I really like the way you wrote about #4 -- you're absolutely right. "Time will help," "you're so strong," and all of those other "supportive" phrases really rang false when all I wanted to hear was her name over and over again, and to know that anyone missed her nearly as much as I did.

sweetsalty kate said...

that certificate... oh, heartbreak. there's something about seeing those words printed out on paper alongside your baby's name that's just so universally wrong in every possible way.


Thank you so much for doing this.

Sara said...

1 How would you describe your relationship to fear before and after the loss of your baby?
If I look at this question in relation to babies/having babies, before fear was theoretical. Something could happen but probably wouldn't. Now I fear things that have happened to me or that I've seen firsthand as I traveled through NICU, PICU, and CICU and then lost my baby. For a good part of Henry's life, we focused on the positive. "At least," we'd say--"At least he's not on a ventilator"; "At least it's a common surgery with a good chance of success"; "at least he doesn't need a transplant." "At least, he isn't suffering" and "at least we didn't have to watch him waste away" don't quite make it, though. There are no more "at least" when your baby dies.

2 Is your lost baby/are your babies present in your life? In what way?
Henry is present in photos (all over the house) and memories. We talk about him; he will always be part of our family (including our extended family. His smile comes to me in the flash of a red bird or a sudden sunbeam out of the clouds. But I ache to hold him again, to see that smile for real.

3 Tell us about something said or done after your loss that left you feeling nurtured or supported.
We braved going to dinner at a friends house not too long after Henry died. Also there were the two babies born within a few days of Henry. I watched as the parents settled those two babies to play together. I didn't want to watch, but I couldn't move. As I was trying to look anywhere else, this guy came over and said, "I have no idea what to say, but I thought I would come stand with you for a little while." It was such a simple acknowledgment that there were no words but that he recognized my pain and was just there for me.

One of the first cards I got after Henry died had these lines from Mary Oliver:
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.

The friend who wrote the card said those lines had been running through her head since she heard the news, because they seemed to capture what I had had to do with Henry.

4 Tell us about something said or done after your loss that left you feeling marginalized or misunderstood
I had to call to cancel supplemental insurance we had applied for for Henry. I got passed from person to person. I told my story for the sixth time: We applied for services for my son, Henry, but he died last week. The response? "And . . ." I suppose it is not surprising to have a bad response in this type of situation, but you'd think people could give a perfunctory, "Sorry for your loss."

From well meaning people, one comment that bothered me was said by several people at his funeral: He looks like a little doll. I wanted to scream, "But he's not a doll! He's my baby and until a few days ago he was smiling and kicking and alive."

5 What's taken you a long time to do again? How did it feel, if you have?
It has not been that long since Henry died. Seeing/holding babies was hard, but it has gotten easier. I still have a hard time being with two or more moms and hearing "mom talk" (How is he sleeping? Is she teething? What are you doing about ...? Have you tried ...?) I avoid these conversations or move away from them if I get stuck in the middle of one.