Jessica’s mom

On mother’s day, I went to visit my daughter.  I took Felix with me, which I don’t often do, simply because it’s a pain in the butt to get him in and out of the car seat.  But since the weather’s warmer and it was a special day, we went together.  It was super cute to see him dance around her headstone, jumping and running in pure toddler fashion. Felix loved playing with the pinwheels I had brought her for Easter.

But the best part was just as I was walking up to her grave, another woman, maybe 10-15 years older than me walked up to the grave in front of hers.  As I held Felix in my arms, I asked “Are you Jessica’s mom?”

I had always felt comforted by the graves in front of and behind Mabel.  Behind her was a woman who died older and I pictured her as a grandma figure for Mabel.  In front of her lie baby Jessica, who lived for 3 days. A playmate for Mabel, someone to show her the ropes, hold her hand. I told Jessica’s mom this.

We talked for several minutes. I learned that Jessica was born at full term, with an infection from which she simply could not recover.  She has two older siblings and two younger siblings.  Jessica’s mom likes to visit her grave alone, as do I.  I shared a bit of Mabel’s story with her- how we knew she would be sick, but we were hopeful. I said how hard it must have been to lose Jessica suddenly, without warning after a full term pregnancy.  She reminisced about the time after she lost Jessica and how her two living children gave her a reason to get out of bed.  I spoke of how hard it was losing my first.  It was validating in a way- losing your first child is a special kind of pain (not that it’s any worse than losing a second, or third…it’s a unique  pain that makes you mother- an invisible one, because the public cannot see the baby that made you a mom).  It’s funny how we both tried to make our losses seem less painful than the other’s- the suddenness of her loss, the pain of me having no living children with mine.  We bonded over how difficult it is to answer how many children we have. I even mentioned how I had wrote about Jessica in this blog.  I asked how old she would be- 17, graduating from high school.  She told me of seeing her nieces and nephews the same age reaching milestones and the pang it leaves in her heart.  Oh, to know I am not the only one! To know it will always hurt a little… even 17 years later…and that’s normal for our babyloss clan.

I wanted to tell her that I sometimes left a flower for baby Jessica, that I often looked at her headstone, that her daughter proximity to my daughter made me feel less alone.  I think she understood without me saying so, as is so common in our clan.

 

Have you bonded with any babyloss strangers?

Advertisements

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!

IMG_6944_2

 

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 9: In Memory

“Is this new?” my acupuncturist asked looking at my tattoo as he placed tiny needles into my foot.

“Yes.”

“You  must really like carrots,” he said with a chuckle.

“It’s for my daughter.  When I was pregnant with her, we used to call her out little Karate Carrot.”

photo (29)

I love that my memorial is subtle, requiring a little explanation.  I’m grateful that we came up with a nickname for her that stuck and is real-world enough that I get to see reminders of her from time to time.

***

“Why do you have a carrot necklace?” the daughter of my friend asked.

“I had a baby who died and we used to call her our Karate Carrot.”

photo (30)

***

“What’s with the carrots?” the little boy asked.  We were seated around a large round table, drawing on small index cards.  Taken together they would fill up a mural in a Mother’s Day remembrance activity for the babylost.  He was drawing something for his little brothers, twins gone too soon.  Chris and I were each drawing carrots in our own way.

“We used to call our daughter Mabel our Karate Carrot.”

“Hah! That’s funny.  A carrot doing karate.”

I smiled.

IMG_3262

IMG_3261

IMG_3256

 

#CaptureYourGrief

 

 

 

The First Mother’s Day

Dear Mabel,

I survived.  I was dreading this first Mother’s Day because I feared I would be constantly reminded you weren’t here.  I worried people would be patronizing, saying “oh, yeah, you’re still a mother,” as if there were any doubt that I wasn’t.  I thought I’d spend the day under the covers, angry at the world.

You are so loved.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends sent flowers to your grave.  We had left your graveside with a simple bouquet, not twenty-four hours beforehand, and we returned to see bucketsful of bouquets decorating your space.  They knew you’d be sad that you couldn’t be in my arms today.

I received many gifts, reminding me that people were thinking about how hard the day would be without you.  A hand carved wooden carrot.  A butterfly lamp.  A painting of you.  A tomato plant.  A purple lilac bush.  A sign for your garden.  None of these gifts simply said Happy Mother’s Day- they said Happy Mother’s day to Mabel’s mom.

But Mabel, the best gift was http://mabelwashere.tumblr.com/  It’s the story of all the things we would have done together.  You have travelled the world!  East coast, West coast, Midwest, Thailand, Greece, Tehran, Russia.  You have so many friends- more than I do.  You’ve gone to work with them, toured cities and helped them garden.  You’ve lain on the beaches, played with their toys and colored with their kids.  You’ve gone swimming, eaten ice cream and been to Disney.  You’ve run races, played tennis and drank coffee.  You’ve read books, played music and knitted.  You’ve taught classes, went to church, baked cupcakes and watched sunsets.  You’ve entered their calendars, walked on their toes, sat in their tattoos. You are living the life you should have had in the hearts of your friends and family.  All these people helped tell the world that you were real.  You existed.  You were here.

This Mother’s Day, I was not told that I was a mother; I was told what kind of mother I was.  I was worried I’d be reminded you weren’t here, but instead I was reminded of just how here you are.

I love you and miss you.  As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

Love,

Mom

Watercolor by Mabel's grandmother Butterfyl lamp Lilac tree Hand carved and painted by friends Flowers at Mabel's grave

“As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”

To a little lady whose absence is especially noted today.

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

 -Robert Munsch, “I’ll love you forever,” written for his two babies, born still.

 

Thank you all for the love on this day.  A day I was not particularly looking forward to has turned out to be quite heartwarming. xoxo

May brings…

May will be hard.  I have been working hard to figure out how to re-integrate myself into daily life and I fear May will bring back to the beginning.  It might break me.

May brings work.

I’m scheduled to go back to work in May.  When I originally set the date as May 1, it seemed so far away. It felt a little like pinning the tail on the donkey.  I closed my eyes and just pointed at a date.  I knew I had no idea how I’d feel at that time, but I figured I might feel readier.  I suppose I felt some sense of self-imposed expectation. I would have been going back around then if I had a baby at home.  I often feel guilty because it makes sense to want to stay at home with a baby, working on bonding and breastfeeding.  But I don’t have a baby at home.  Sometimes I feel like I should be going back to work much sooner because there’s no little person keeping me at home.

I pushed back the start date by two weeks.  Again, I picked the date blindly.  I just don’t know how I’m going to feel.  Perhaps the anticipation is the worst part?  I don’t know.  When I return to work, I do know this.  I need to go slower.  Probably slower than I even think.

May brings babies.

I have two family members who are due in May, my sister and a cousin . This is going to hurt.  It’s something I should be looking forward to. I don’t know how I will be told about their births.  I dread it.  These children will be celebrated by my family, over and over again.  As much as I will love these babies, I am not in the mood for celebrating.  These children will forever be reminders of Mabel.  In years to come they will be the age she should have been.  It pains me that I can’t share the joy right now.  I have chosen a career and a lifestyle that usually celebrates these events, so being so dark is foreign to me.  Why did my baby have to die when these babies live?  Why are they fortunate to have two babies and I none?  Why my baby?  What did I do?  How is this fair?  (please please don’t think I want anything to happen to these babies.  I just wish things turned out differently for mine)

May brings Mother’s Day.

There is already a video going around facebook entitled “world’s toughest job.”  I watched it unaware that it was a tribute to mothers- working as a chef/accountant/manager 24hrs/day, 7 days a week, on your feet with no breaks, unpaid.  It’s the toughest job in the world.  You know what’s tougher?  Wanting that job and being rejected.  Choosing the moment your baby will die.  Watching others bring home a baby from the hospital while you don’t.  Burying your daughter.  When that video got to the part where they announce that this near impossible to fulfill job description turns out to be the lifestyle of a mother, I shut it off.  Chris was watching with me and was silent.  I think he was caught off guard too.  This is the start of what the next weeks will bring, constant reminders of the upcoming day.

Let me be clear- I love and appreciate my mother and the work she did raising five kids.  Mother’s Day is about her too.  I have always valued the day- I even used to send cards to other people in addition to my mother- my godmother, my grandmother, my friend’s mother who was like a second mother to me.  I get the day.  But this was supposed to be my first Mother’s Day.

Yes, many people tell me “But you are a mother.”  Yes I am a mother but I have no child to hold and make me feel that way.  According to Wikipedia a mother is “is a woman who has raised a child, given birth to a child, and/or supplied the egg which in union with a sperm grew into a child. ” I am a mother by definition- I have supplied the egg and given birth.  When do I get to raise her?