Tuesday, December 13, 2011
My heart beats quietly beside her, as we're lying in the dark. I've stopped doing anything, everything I do in my life these last few weeks to let my little tiny one sleep when she wants, and it is paying off. This evening it's just past eight and she's beginning to doze beside me, even though her last nap ended at just before half-past six. So we lie there together, side by side, and she falls gently into slumber while I sing softly to her. It takes her about twenty minutes to fall into a deep sleep, but I have the time. This is the most important thing.
I think to myself, as I look at my baby, falling asleep in the safest place she knows, what a lucky little baby she is, to be falling asleep in her mother's arms, comfortable and cared for.
And what a very, extremely lucky mother I am to realize that there is nothing more important in my life right now than to lie there with her, breathing in this fleeting, delicate moment of her babyhood.
Today is the 13th of December. One year, it was Charlotte's seven month birthday on this day, and the next year she turned 19 months while her brother turned eight months. Some years later her sister turned one month, and then that next year thirteen months.
Eight years ago on this day Greg and I stayed home from work and sat across from each other at our dining room table and made wax-resist Pysanki eggs to hang on our Christmas tree. We wrote her name on them and wept as we did so. I was pregnant but could hardly think about it.
This year, as Greg was carefully hanging his egg, the last ornament to grace the Charlotte tree, it somehow slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor, breaking. The look on his face made me want to run away, it was Grief I saw, that haunting past I haven't seen him turn into for quite some time. He lethargically retrieved the broken pieces off the floor and spent the next half-hour in silence, filling the shell with cotton and using a hot glue gun to try to piece it back together. Liam was slightly horrified at this whole scene, and was continually approaching Greg and saying tentative things to try to mend the awkward intrusion of Grief into our holiday together.
Liam does not remember that Greg always used to cry when we decorated the tree.
The 13th of December, today. A Tuesday, the night where Greg is out and I tuck all the children into bed myself. A cold, blustery night, twelve days before Christmas.
(I have five children)
Monday, December 12, 2011
We almost had no dinner, because just before dinner, everyone became totally engrossed in Christmas crafts. Greg and I were dashing from kid to kid threading needles, matching up felt pieces, and helping to design templates. French toast happened at the last possible moment, and against all odds, the children were all in bed, asleep, by 7:30. Perhaps the universe (or Charlotte) wanted me to have my craft time tonight to make Maeve's Christmas stocking.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
It's dark outside so early now, but there is a moon tonight that shines with such brightness that the trees are casting crisp shadows on the earth beneath them and the big, glacial boulders in my front yard are shining in the light. Inside, the Christmas tree glows with its tiny lights and the house still echoes from the voices and stomping feet of the six children who filled it with the noise of eighteen only a few hours earlier.
The dinner party over but the excitement still very much present, it took me quite some time to get Maeve settled down and into bed tonight. During the day I can wrap her up burrito style and walk around with her while she nurses and I talk to the kids, play Monopoly, or otherwise carry on with our daily life. She dozes off and I can then set her down upstairs for her snooze and leave her. But at night it's harder for her to calm down, and because her daytime naps are so erratic in both length and frequency, bedtime hasn't been consistent for her or me. (I could go on about this, because as you know the one thing I can get almost type-A about is children getting enough sleep, and all my children were out like lights by 7 PM at the LATEST by this age, But Maeve is different, and our life is different). So I try every night to draw in great, deep breaths and remind myself of how fleeting this time is, this baby-time.
So tonight I lay in bed with her, after we'd walked upstairs in the dark for a time to get her dozing. We lay in our bed together and she nursed a little more and I patted her back and sang to her softly while I looked out my great, huge windows that overlook the front yard and the river. I could see the moonlight reflected in the rushing water and the cold stillness of the earth below. The dark seemed to wrap itself around us, even in the silvery light. Somehow being able to see in the darkness made it more present. I lay there, looking out, and thought, I have all the time in the world for you, my dear. I lay there with her, feeling the warmth of her little body against mine, knowing with all the certainty in the world just how unbelievably lucky I am to have the privilege to do just this.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
I just read a book by this title.
(it was a good book to read)
But it got me thinking about the year 2008, and how wonderful it is for me to go back and read this blog because so much of my life and my children and my thoughts are captured.
It made me think about how every day, there are many amazing things that happen.
One amazing thing was sitting on the couch, with our beautifully lit Christmas tree to my right, looking out the window to my left at cotton-candy clouds kissed pink by a glowing sunrise. It was seven o'clock, just dawn here as the shortest day looms less than two weeks away. The sky behind the clouds was a deep purplish grey. The two older children were playing together (and they were not fighting, not even a little, because sometimes they do that) and I had Maeve curled in my left arm, nursing, and Fiona curled beside me on the couch on the right side, nursing as well. I was wearing my big, fluffy fleece bathrobe, and the house was warm, and it was delicious.
That was a moment that could have been nothing, that could have been forgotten by morning tomorrow. But now, I will remember it. It was me alone with my four living children, everyone happy, while the sun came up over our corner of the world.
While I'm writing, I will share something with you that rocked me a little. I was in the shower yesterday pondering the amazing truth that I have four daughters and one son. Four seems like a lot of daughters for one person to have, it's getting on towards a collection of girls when you get that high, although of course three is a pretty normal amount of girls which is all a person can actually see of our family. But in the context of my considering the number of daughters I have, I stumbled upon a memory I hadn't picked out of the box in a while and it is this:
She is lying in my arms, her head in the crook of my left elbow, and she's just been born. I am dizzy with the overwhelming and surprising overlap of two, seemingly opposite emotions: intense, incredible joy at the little baby in my arms, paired with a haunting, suffocating grief I have never before felt in my life. I'm crying for the wonder and disbelief of the child I have created and grown and birthed and for the tragedy that will tear her from my arms in a quarter day's time. Through my tears, I gently move her tiny leg to the side and see that she is a girl child.
I look at my husband's face and I say to him, she's a little girl, we have a daughter.
Something about that word, daughter, sears it on my heart as the thing I will covet most: daughter. With the word daughter becoming mine, in turn I seize also the word mother, the word parent, the piece of my soul I have always meant to be the most important.
I used to think about that moment every single day, maybe 50 times. It was a part of the story I repeated to myself again and again: we have a daughter, we have a daughter, we have a daughter.
And now, in the process of collecting more of those precious, irreplaceable daughters for our amazing family, I have forgotten to think about this moment in time quite so often.
Just another one of those things that changes.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Greg went into Fiona's room late last night, after hearing her cry out.
She was lying peacefully on her back, staring up at him.
"Charlotte is sleeping," she told him. He agreed.
"Charlotte has wings" she stated, and turned her head to the side and closed her eyes.
Interesting, given that we've never, ever told any of our children that Charlotte is an angel.
But perhaps she is.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
How I could have let it pass over me, I'm not certain. Memories get replaced by newer ones, I suppose, pushing onto the sidelines those that once circulated like wispy smoke through my brain: the happy moments before the storm, that vicious cyclone that ripped through my life and left me bleeding on the side of the road, broken and spent.
(Is this really what I should be telling people? Healing happens like this: your memories are so painful, so agonizing, that your brain will heal you by pushing your memories to the back of your mind, into a place that is like a locked file cabinet somewhere in a dusty closet. Sometimes you'll choose to crack open the drawer and let the memories seep out, but it's likely that when this happens you'll push the drawer shut with a slam, and collapse on the floor wondering how you ever managed to cope with such crippling sadness every single day of your life. Is it fair to confess that most of your memory of what happened will become a list of facts, and you'll learn to rattle off the facts while you carefully avoid matching the facts with the feelings that once paired with them? Should I tell people that one day they may learn to recite their story and feel nothing, to be devoid of anything while the words pour out of their mouth like water from a battered, well-loved waterbottle? Should I tell people that this is how it is, that you learn to live with the pain but that sometimes it's sad that your pain has turned into a story, and you can hardly even remember the sadness because you've done such a good job trying to heal? Do I admit that the sadness sometimes has to be re-remembered on purpose?)
So this is how it came to be that it didn't occur to me until I was watching this young, heavily pregnant woman sit in a big, brown leather armchair, with presents to her right being handed to her by her young niece, that I had once been this woman. Literally I had sat in that same chair, in that same living room, for that same reason, on April 13, 2003. A different, small blond child had handed me my gifts. I had laughed like her. One month to the day before all those baby shower gifts would become useless to me, mere tokens of a dream bitterly lost.
This is how it came to be that while I watched this woman open her baby shower gifts, and I realized that I had once sat in that same chair, heavily pregnant with Charlotte, that I let the gauze fall over the memory. I chose not to connect the dots between that fact and the agony of the loss, and I laughed with the others and commented excitedly about the cute clothes that inside I prayed she would have the privilege of using. I hoped so hard for her and her baby, but I did not let myself think about my own loss. And I was successful in not doing so.
Eight and a half years is a long, long time, isn't it?
(but she'd still only be a little girl. How could I have sidelined so much?)