Mother’s Day, take two

A long overdue post, but one still on my mind.

This Mother’s Day was different- gentler perhaps. I won’t deny that the growing life inside me has helped ease it, but truthfully, this Mother’s Day was still all about Mabel in my mind. She is the only child I have born, the one that has concretely, if not silently, made me a mother. Time too has eased the pain. Last year, Mother’s Day was still so fresh, less than three months after Mabel’s death, I wanted the freedom to sit and sulk all day. I was so afraid it would hurt. And last year it did hurt, but there was also a lot of beauty in it. I received a lot of love from so many people that the build up to the day was worse than the actual day itself.

This year, perhaps because of such a surprisingly good day last year, there was less build up. I panicked a bit thinking that no one would quite remember, but also knew it wouldn’t be as bad as if they hadn’t remembered the first year. My standing as a mother was no longer debatable in my mind. I think I was worried that Chris would forget.

Hah! I woke to him calling my name. At first I was a little annoyed- why was he waking me up on a day to sleep in? “What?” I croaked groggily, not hiding my grumpiness. I rolled over to see that he placed a tray next to me- breakfast in bed!

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And later he surprised me with an even better gift- he hired our wedding photographer to come take photos during our shower the next week, with a quick sneak away maternity photo shoot.

The gift might seem all about the baby I’m currently carrying, but it was all about Mabel, really. When we learned she had Down Syndrome, I was stricken by the fear that I would lose her through miscarriage or stillbirth, a 12-20% chance. I was terrified that photos of me pregnant would cause me pain later on. The fear deepened when we learned of her likely life limiting birth defects. I rarely let myself in front of a camera. It wasn’t until I had her and then lost her, that I realized how much I valued the few photos that showed my belly pregnant with Mabel. Those photos were part of the proof that she existed. That she was here. So a maternity photo shoot- something I might have thought was too cheesy for my liking otherwise- was actually the most thoughtful gift and tribute to Mabel. That man, my husband. ❤

I spent the day a bit like any other- happy to have a free day to clean, run errands and get my life together. An important part of the day was visiting Mabel- that little sweet thing that gave the day meaning. When we arrived at her tombstone, I was surprised to see that someone had planted some flowers for her.

Mabel's flowers

Mabel’s flowers

Oddly, I think it was a random act of kindness. There were some freshly planted flowers of the same variety and color along a grave one row up.

The grave with the same flowers

The grave with the same flowers

Unless someone I know takes claim for such a lovely deed, I envision the caregiver of that other adorned grave, looking over at Mabel’s stone, reading her name, her solitary date and seeing the engraving of her tiny footprints and deciding that she too needed a little special gift on that day. Maybe they even thought of the mother of that baby and how hard Mother’s Day must be for any woman who has had to bury her child.

How was this Mother’s Day for you?

Day 17: Explore/ Day 18: Gratitude

“That’s really hard,” my colleague sympathized after I told him some of the things I was struggling with, aside from the obvious babyloss.

“Yeah,” I said with tears stinging my eyes. “My life sucks.” Before he could respond, I continued, “No. that’s not true. My life doesn’t suck. I’m just unhappy right now. I have many things I’m grateful for.”

We are told constantly in the grief community that gratitude is an important part of healing. It is an exercise I try to practice often. I tried to find things to appreciate when I was still pregnant with Mabel and learned that she would likely die. I’ve done two weeks of publically finding 3 Good Things about my day. When I sit down and really explore my grief, where I am in the “process,” I am doing okay. I am sad- some days very very sad. I am angry and I am jealous. But I also am realistic.

I listen to audiobooks in the car and lately I have been drawn to memoirs about people who have survived tragedy- struggles far worse than mine, in my mind. A House in the Sky, a book about a journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for over a year and Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings, the story of Michelle Knight’s eleven years in captivity, surviving rape, beatings and starvation by the hands of her friend’s father. Some would call these books depressing and hard to read; I find them uplifting and grounding. They remind me to be grateful for the simple things: freedom, food, a life free of assault.

I have much to be grateful for. I have a supportive family (even if I don’t always respond to their support). My friends and coworkers are understanding and caring. I have a job, and though it may be very painful at times, I can find moments of fulfillment and in the very least it pays the bills. I have met some of the most compassionate and interesting babyloss moms, online and in person, through my journey and new friendships with some especially kindhearted individuals, who aren’t even in the club, have grown. I don’t want for any of my basics- food, freedom, safety- and I have many luxuries. I have a puppy who sits on my lap and licks my hands in affection. But most of all, I have someone who rubs my back when cry in hysterics, who laughs with me in the good times, who said yes to a baby with special needs, who shed tears when the doctors said she would die, who held my hand as we left the hospital empty-armed, who allows me to take all the time I need as I grieve, who visits her grave with me, who pushes me to be social but doesn’t force me into situations I’m not ready for, who wakes up in the middle of the night to take the puppy out when I’m sick, who is just so handsome. I am grateful for him.

#CaptureYourGrief

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First date?

A little change of pace.  In the vein of I’m more than just my grief, I will share with you some non grief memories.  This was the me, before Mabel.

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We sat in the car outside my house. It was too soon to invite him in. I didn’t want to send him the wrong message, but I wanted him to leave knowing I liked him, so I unbuckled my seatbelt and leaned over the center console. The stick shift made my movements awkward, deliberate even. “Smooth moves, Meghan,” I thought to myself as I clumsily tried to avoid the clutch poking me in the side. Once I cleared the obstacles, I bee-lined for his lips. I felt confident. Look at me, the feminist! A woman making a first move! It had worked for me in the past, so I was surprised when he didn’t lean forward to kiss me back. Oh no! I had misread all the signs! This wasn’t a date! But I was in too far to reverse. I continued my trajectory, expecting him to turn his cheek, like any guy would do to dissuade an unwelcome advance, and was surprised again when his face remained facing mine. He just sat there, dumbly, expressionless. Too late to abort, I went for it. The romantic first kiss I was planning on was tossed aside in favor of a quick peck on the lips.

“Bye! I’ll talk to you later!” I squeaked out quickly as I retreated.   My cheeks burned in embarrassment. There was nothing like having my first move rejected to make me rethink my whole self-image. I guess I wasn’t as attractive as I thought; the date didn’t go as well as I had imagined.

Slamming the car door behind me I ran into my house and immediately dialed my friend.

“It wasn’t a date!” I told her.

“What?” she said, confused. We had explored the whole subject in detail prior to our dinner. He had asked me out… sort of. We were at a group rock-climbing event and he asked four of us if anyone had wanted to go for a drink that Friday. He was finishing a class that week and wanted to celebrate. I was the first to respond, eager to spend more time with him, “Sure!” When the other two in the group said they had other plans, he looked at me with questioning eyes, “Still want to go?” Absolutely. I had thought at that point it could have been a date, but wasn’t totally sure. When a huge snowstorm hit that Friday and we were both house-bound, he asked if I wanted to reschedule. At that point, I figured it really was a date.

Now I told my friend how drinks turned into dinner and he paid at the end. We did all the typical first date stuff, learning about each other’s jobs and families. Laughing. Flirting. He even drove me home, the easily walkable two blocks to my apartment. Based on that alone, it seemed obvious. But when I explained how I went in for the kiss and he neither kissed me back nor turned his cheek, choosing a neutral reception to my overt moves, she was just as confused as I was.

“Maybe he has a girlfriend and I was just making up the signs that he was interested?” I theorized.

“Maybe….” She said. “But he bought dinner! And drove you home!”

I decided to try not to worry about it and she and I concentrated on our plans for the next night- New Years Eve in New York City. I learned later that when he went to see his friends afterwards, they asked how the date went. “Great!” he said with a stupid smile.

I tell this story often at dinner parties or with new friends. It’s the story of our first-date-that-wasn’t-really-a-date. The failed first kiss never ceases to make the people we are with laugh. My husband groans when I tell this story, but he always gets the last word. “It worked, didn’t it?”

 

 

Come home safely Chris

My husband returns home tomorrow.  It’s been two week since he sat next to me on the couch watching Orange is the New Black.  Two weeks since he fired up the grill for a fajita dinner.  Two weeks since I kissed his sleepy face goodbye as I ran off to bootcamp at some ungodly hour.  My husband had been summoned to Japan to take tours of facilities and sit in hours of meetings for work.  It was been a long two weeks.

For a year and a half of our dating life we lived apart.  When he applied to the competitive two year rotational program at work, knowing he could be placed time zones away from me for eight month periods, I said to him, “Ok.  But I want you know that I’m in this for the long haul.  If you go away, I expect that we’ll still be together when you get back.”  For sixteen months he was in Pennsylvania, commuting back to Connecticut on the weekends to see his girlfriend.  It could have been worse, I know.  It could have been Canada or Puerto Rico or Troy, Alabama, but it still wasn’t Connecticut.  After sixteen months he came back and three months later we were married.    Turns out he was in it for the long haul too.

In the scheme of things two weeks may not seem like much, but this will actually be the longest we’ve ever been apart.  It comes at a tough time too.  I’m still actively grieving, adjusting to my return to a job full of triggers and battling emotional mood swings.  Enough time has passed and I appear to be functioning, so I’m not on people’s radar as much.  The first week, I turned out to be quite busy, which was nice.  The second week, I have had less invites (not none, though), but that turned out to be a good thing.  I was a bit in the doldrums and needed time by myself, something I haven’t felt I needed in a long time.  I guess without my rock, my Chris, I don’t function as well.  The thirteen hour time difference didn’t help- his morning is my night and so we were always catching each other on our way out the door.

Right now he is on a direct flight from Tokyo to New York.  I can’t help but be worried.  In the past few months I’ve developed an acute sense of worry about my husband’s well being.  I have him email me when he gets to work every day, just so that I know he didn’t get in a car accident.  This year I’ve faced what many would call one of the worst possible things- but I know differently; it could be worse.  I could lose even more.  I could lose Chris.  Being struck by tragedy once has made me sensitive to the idea that other tragedies can happen, as unlikely as they might be.  This is a normal process of grief, I know, but normalizing it doesn’t lessen it.  A commercial plane was just shot down mistakenly and almost three hundred people lost their lives.  That news story has amplified my worry about Chris’s travel.  Sixteen hours in the air, with no way to contact me to tell me he’s fine.  I’m holding my breath until he lands.