Superstitious

Around 18-24 months the bereaved begin to move on… to get organized, start enjoying themselves and stop feeling guilty about this positive feeling.

It’s 13 months. It’s the 13th of July. Will died on February 13th. Tiger died on June 13th. I posted on Glow today- it was the 13th response. I feel very 13- odd, uncomfortable, prime as in I can’t be  divided by any other but myself, alone. But don’t be superstitious.

My body should have been able to handle it. I should have gone to a different doctor…. even after I looked for another doctor, after the surgery when he asked me to stick with him. I should have known. I should have gone private.I should have been on bedrest. I should have treated that long sought after pregnancy like it was glass.  Boys don’t take to me. I should be better, further along, clearer, stronger, more joyful. I should have protected my family and not gotten sloppy. I should have demanded to go to Cornell with Will. I should have demanded that they let us see Tiger.

I imagine them grown up all of the time. I imagine them as young men and that is when I most miss them.

I want someone to blow fairy dust on me and make me really sleep, feel joy, make me nicer, sprinkle me with understanding.

If I can be superstitious, after 40 years, of the number 13 why not put some faith in fairy dust?

A reversal? A surprise. A country and western twang.

So I’ve added boys to the mix of babies I’ve held. In all its complication it was delightful. I so love babies. And their moms and the infant eyes looking up at you and their heads on your shoulder. Its a good reminder… remember…there can be joy. Each child is it’s own universe. I can enjoy them as separate from Will, from Tiger. Now. Holding your own is something else entirely almost. You can imagine the relief! Lucky enough to truly enjoy babies again! That part of grieving was the worst.

Oh yes. But pregnant woman that I don’t know- the ones that I just run into rounding the corner, walking the dog, on the subway. Those beautiful bellies, the tender hand rubbing them, the *glow* in their eyes. The shiny hair and long nails. Oh, those beautiful bellies and trimester and the yoga and the preparation and the partner beside them- watchful and amazed- their hand gently taken to the curve, mother’s hand on top, to feel the alien kicks and then the mutual smile at the moment of impact. It’s all so magical… so unbelievable that we do this as humans. To do this- the man that feels so envious of this ability in woman? Me x 1000 with a shadowing dose of memory.

Maybe because this was my life with my boys. This was their life with me. It will always be magic.

Oh we should have children at 22.

Where do we go from here my love? Where will we be tomorrow?

I don’t want to grieve forever. I don’t want to wish forever. I’m trying to parse the difference between honoring and grieving. It’s work- lovingly remembering and creatively honoring a dream. More often than not I need that work and dive in: I find it healing. It takes me back to that powerful world after Tiger died but before he was gone. All walls had crumbled and the sky went on forever. I was drenched in sorrow and fully alive. Maternal energy hung around me like the saints’ glow on a Catholic holy card and escaped out- having lost its intended (earthly) destination. I wanted to be anywhere but there, yet embraced my surroundings, my new eyes, my body that didn’t die. I think this is where the magical thinking lives for baby-loss mothers.

We want another child and my body can’t do it. I really want someone to carry our baby. And then, since that seems impossible, we want to adopt…. because I believe that another child is meant to be in our family. Still, I believe that. But some days I just don’t have the reserves.. to be my age, to be so dependent on a stranger and their sadness of giving up a child, to be so far from the joy of carrying your own. I am struck numb at the process of being interviewed and judged to love a baby. Who could love a baby more than Tom and I? ok then, prove it.

365 days in the spirit of Tiger

*This is the year of the tiger in the Chinese Zodiac

*Tigers are really good swimmers.

*Tiger cubs start to hunt with their mothers at 6 months. They can’t feed themselves though so they remain with their moms until 16 months.

* The number of tigers in the wild has dwindled to 3,200 – less than the number held in captivity in the United States alone.

* Tiger cubs are born blind.The night vision of adult tigers is six times better than that of humans.

* The Hindi goddess Durga rides into battle on a tiger (A tiger symbolizes unlimited power) indicating then that She possesses unlimited power and uses it to protect virtue and destroy evil.

Tiger Brennan     June 13th, 2009

When I’m thinking of my son and making a ritual to honor him, instead of pictures (there are none) or early memories (outside of the medical trauma) I meditate on facts and myths about his namesake.

Two white and orange flower garlands. Two strands of Tibetan prayer flags. 40 white cranes. Orange roses. Navaho prayer ties made for Tiger when he was inside me. A picture of a sleeping baby tiger. Handmade orange and black flowers made by Janine and Nesto to put at the tree. A dragonfly painting made by Tiger’s sister Lucy. Incense. All white cloths. Special word rocks. Lucy’s tiger dance. Thoughts on what Tiger’s death has brought into our lives. Then rain.

Tom said once of Will that he didn’t so much miss him, he just wished he was here. I agreed at the time. Now I wish they were both here…. AND I miss them. Sigh. It’s a really odd space to be in where you understand the frivolousness of longing… and yet you long so deeply it is physical.

I danced on Friday night. I danced and danced and celebrated being alive. I was on the edge of tears but couldn’t dive into sorrow…. I couldn’t dive into the missing. I have missed so much over this year. I think about my sweet Tiger and what it would be like if…. He had just learned to walk and was saying those early words and… I stop myself, remind myself, come back to where I am standing and the scar on my belly and concentrate on what Tiger is… instead of what he is not. When I came to dance, where I chose to just ‘be’ in all that is real in my life one year later, my anam caras (soul friends) had made the altar and here is what it looked like:

Godspeed litte man. Sweet dreams.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqaBof47pmY&feature=related

“One for A SOLITARY MAN”

It’s true – I went to the movies last night and saw, A SOLITARY MAN,…  by myself. Bada bum.

I go every week, it’s something Susan does for me. Yeah, she’s pretty great.

Speaking of Susan, she just posted on our blog with a beautiful discussion/essay on sympathy and time. It was a fascinating read for me. To wonder and think and progress? toward something positive – in my grieving process in relation to my interactions with others…   hmm… well — as a topic – it just barely exists for me.

I am more or less conscious of who knows about Will and Tiger in my life – and I make an effort to mention them to those that don’t. Also, when mentioning them is a natural part of conversation, I try not to miss the chance to say their names (or refer to them). For instance, the other day at work, I went out for a team lunch. Simple enough. We made all the necessary small talk with a smidge of work stuff to assuage the guilt for the free lunch and fill the voids in conversation. We’re not really friends — they’re co-workers — if we’re not talking about work, there tends to be a fair amount of silence. Anyway, it came up about how I was running the Brooklyn half-marathon that weekend (I wasn’t bragging trust me- I am very humble, and not at all vain, in many ways I’m sort of a perfect human being, so I never brag). Okay, so, it came up, I don’t know how. and someone turns to me and asks, “why do you run rather than sit on the couch?” (because isn’t sitting on the couch more comfortable) – It was a joke – it was light. My response? The truth, I just said it, “Running helps me deal with trauma.” WHAM! Translation: “hey everyone – don’t forget – I had two sons die! Are you gonna eat those fries? Have you ever seen a dead baby? How dare you make small talk while I’m sitting here suffering! Ketchup, please.”

But here’s the thing, and – I have to qualify this by saying – maybe I haven’t thought about this enough – but — what I was thinking last night in that (really pretty bad) movie with Michael Douglass was. I feel so alone in my grief. For me – it is a solitary place. I don’t invite people there. I feel the need to honor my sons – and to be honest in my interactions with people – but – for the most part – everyone is entitled to a little sneak peek now and then – the rest of the time – forget it. This is my pain, my thing, when I think about Will and Tiger – it’s not that I want to keep it to myself – it’s more that I don’t think of anyone else – no one else exists.

Special, longer looks, are reserved for Susan. (or evidently -members of the Pregnancy Loss Support Group. I’m still shocked by my behavior there).

I don’t know. I don’t even know my point – I feel lonely I guess – I feel like the loss of Will and Tiger – their absence — this pain — my inability to include anyone else in it — has pushed me away from people (as if they weren’t far enough already).

Somehow – in spite of everything I’ve said – when I was at the table with a group of parents that have been through the same thing – and the time was set aside to talk about our children and loss — I don’t know — it opened me up. I felt like I was really with people.

Unfortunately, the Pregnancy Loss Support Group program lasted 6 weeks. Hmm – what to do with the rest of my life?

This post is so unclear and sloppy — there’s a writer’s voice inside me screaming bloody murder right now – oh well – he can get in line.

the tiredness of sympathy

In An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination Elizabeth McCracken, in talking about the long healing process of grief says, “Grief lasts longer than sympathy, which is one of the tragedies of the grieving.”

I wouldn’t want the same sympathy that we got right after Tiger died. The difficulty of what Elizabeth says for me is when patience runs out- when your hour or month or year of grieving is perceptually over for some. OR when where you actually are in your grief is not considered and then it’s all a throw back to the first raw days. A friend said recently, when trying to demonstrate understanding, “How do you do it Susan? Your whole life has been consumed with sorrow for over 4 years. First Will then…..” and proceeded to tell me my whole story. Wow. I don’t think I was ‘consumed’. People do the best that they can. Ashe (and so it is). In my community, outside of work, I am ‘the woman who lost two babies’. I see it in people’s eyes- much of this is kindness with a lingering fear and often a dash of discomfort. I get that. It’s tiring- being the receiver of that, and still it makes me feel very human, very alive. When I am in a group of new people, who do not know my story there is a strange dichotomy of relief at remembering the me before tragedy and a feeling that I’m a fraud- that I am simply not the person that they see standing before them… Because my boys are here… they just are invisible. And it doesn’t feel right to hide and ignore children.

I could tell the stories of my boys at any moment if asked. No one asks that- why would they? how could they? Last Friday night I did tell a friend, who did not know me when Will was born, the story of Will’s birth and short life and death. He  wanted to hear and was a real active listener. I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying and important this was to me. In the winter I was at a morning ‘open school’ in my daughter’s classroom with other parents. One mother and I got to talking about maternal age and kids…. it just got to a point where I had to say it…. I had to acknowledge my boys and tell this poor woman. I’m so sorry that this mom was a victim of my grief because she was ill prepared to hear this news from an acquaintance, in a kindergarten classroom no less. And so from these two experiences I realize that none of this actually is about the staying power of sympathy but instead the ability to be present for another- to carry sympathy (loving kindness in Buddhist speak) with you for everyone. Also for me, holding your grief in a way that allows you to recognize those who can hear and be present.

I don’t ask for long term sympathy really. I just like my boys to be known. I don’t enjoy saying I have one daughter and a step son- which I do mostly say because it is what is appropriate and comfortable for others. I say ‘mostly’ because I’ve learned to be honest in moments and understand that everything isn’t always comfortable. My dear friend Janine has said of tightrope walking that for her, it is about learning to be okay with being unbalanced. I’m learning to be okay with discomfort- mine and others- when discomfort is the truer moment.

Unexpected Grief

It’s so curious: one can resist tears and behave very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer.. and everything collapses. ~Colette

Grief renders me a stranger in a strange land. Who expects these moments ten months after loss? I now want to hear from all of my family and friends where they were when Tom called them to tell them about Tiger’s death. About me in surgery. But I rarely ask. Seems selfish to pull others back into my sorrow. Somehow, any information that has to do with Tiger makes this all the more believable. I got it- all this time I accepted the inevitability of life and death. But now I’m floating again and I need stories to ground me. Maybe the Spring reminds me of all that pain, the surgery, the hopefulness. And moving from our home where all three of my children were conceived. It’s a relief yet somehow cutting a cord.

Breaking through the shock

I’m in the moment of the ultrasound without a heartbeat. I knew the second they put the wand on my stomach- I knew he was gone. All else- the cheery technician telling me to look at my son’s profile, the call to the doctor to look for herself, the silence in my hospital room, the ‘I’m sorry’, all of it was distant, was like watching a movie. Like watching the cloud of dust after the towers fell here in NYC.

Some people know that moment only from the movies. (lucky for them). There wasn’t weeping or loud cries of NO like actors do. There is just an earth shattering silence thickly encased in shock. I have no idea if there were actually any tears.

Until today. I found myself back in that moment. I cried for that moment- Tiger’s moment. I heard myself say NO, I saw my hands shaking, I felt my chest vibrating.

And I wanted what you might think I would have asked for that day but didn’t until this morning: I wanted to go back- I wanted to go back to the day before Tiger died and I wanted to save him. I know. But that’s what I wanted. Just my super-mom costume and the power of time travel.

“Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts
So it’s fairly simple to cut right through the mess,
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess

And we are so fragile,
And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys” – Ingrid Michaelson

not a walk in the park

I love the name Tiger now.

A beautiful spring morning in Brooklyn, walking Fletcher in the park…. and the tulips at Will’s tree are in bloom…. and I wanted you with me. I guess I longed for these morning walks with you, like I had with Lucy and Fletch minus Will’s tree years ago now. I thought we would go and visit Will- and life and death would combine just to be Love. Without you this morning I danced the life part…. found myself jealous of the flowers for being nourished by your ashes…. and once again tried to gather it all as love and bring it home, help it motivate the process of finding the child who will join our family.

You both are so present in our lives, only not in the way I had dreamed. So very different  sweet boys.

my two cents to babyloss moms on the death-preoccupation (glow)

One of my biggest struggles after losing Will and again after losing Tiger: My 5 year old daughter. It is not new but it has that raw experienced-based-fear attached to it when it comes. I couldn’t fly after Will died for months. A panic took me over once I did fly- just wrapped its icy fingers around me and held tight. And still every time I’m going to drive to work I say goodbye to my husband and Lucy with a knowledge that it could be the last. My daughter always had lots of play dates with close friends but after our losses I couldn’t imagine anyone else being able to keep her safe- it just felt inevitable that something would happen. It relaxed a bit eventually after Will and isn’t as profound after Tiger but the fear of one of us dying is woven into life now. Last summer my ‘imaginings’ were super dark. These are the two things that helped me move to a place where I can manage it:

1. A therapist said to me- Nothing is going to happen to Lucy. That’s it. She just said it and I knew she couldn’t know that. And then I realized that my focusing on losing her wasn’t going to change anything. She probably will be ok and I will see her grow, and watch her become a woman. And if I don’t? If I lose her- I won’t live through that. Just true. And somehow that gave me the strength to move from the fear more often- because it was stealing my time with her.

2. When I would start to go to those dark places I became aware. Just aware that I was going there. Then I practiced thinking about something, anything else- in detail. I would talk out loud to help move away from what I was imagining. I would sing. It is exhausting- a lot of work- but really worth it. I don’t go there as often anymore and when I do- I usually move away much faster. I just didn’t want to create anymore grief than I am already holding- it’s really more than enough- and I don’t want to lose my sanity.

For me- a few months of therapy really helped. I had to say those things- hear myself say them- or I couldn’t let them go. I’m still protective and over aware of the potential but I’m trying to USE it – Carlos Castanada once said that we should live our lives like death is walking behind us and at any moment could tap us on the shoulder. I’m trying to transform this fear into a different way of living…. to live differently because of this knowledge. Trying- we’ll see.

I’m not a huge Castanada fan actually but I also started to look at the grieving and once I was able to have some perspective I started asking myself his simple question: “Look at every path closely and deliberately, then ask yourself this crucial question: Does this path have a heart? If it does, then the path is good. If it doesn’t, it is of no use.”